SC grants time to Assam to file counter on IYC president’s plea in harassment case

 The Supreme Court on Monday granted four-week time to Assam to file its counter affidavit on the plea of Indian Youth Congress president B V Srinivas, who has challenged a Gauhati High Court order rejecting his anticipatory bail plea in an alleged harassment case.

The apex court had on May 17 granted Srinivas interim protection from arrest in the case.

The Gauhati High Court had in May rejected the anticipatory bail plea of Srinivas in a case lodged by the expelled chief of Assam Youth Congress, accusing him of causing mental agony.

The matter came up for hearing on Monday before a bench of Justices B R Gavai and J B Pardiwala.

The counsel appearing for the state told the bench that he needed some time to file the counter.

“Has he cooperated in the investigation,” the bench asked.

“Yes, many times,” said senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Srinivas.

The counsel appearing for the state said they would file a counter affidavit and the petitioner is already under interim protection.

“Four weeks to file counter. Two weeks thereafter to file rejoinder. Put up after six weeks,” the bench said.

On May 17, the top court had issued notice to the Assam government seeking its response on the plea by July 10.

“We have also perused the statement of the complainant recorded under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which has been so graciously placed before us by the prosecution. We do not wish to comment anything about the same at this stage inasmuch as it may again have an effect on the rights of the parties at the trial,” the bench had said.

“Prima facie, taking into consideration the delay of almost two months in lodging the FIR, in our view, the petitioner is entitled to the interim protection,” it had said in its order.

The apex court had directed that in the event of arrest in connection with the case, the petitioner shall be released on anticipatory bail on furnishing solvent surety in the sum of Rs 50,000 with one or more sureties in the like amount.

It had asked Srinivas to cooperate in the investigation and appear before the police on May 22 and, thereafter, as and when called upon to do so.

It had also directed him to cooperate in the inquiry being carried out by the National Commission for Women.

The high court had said it was of the opinion that the case was not fit for granting the privilege of pre-arrest bail to the petitioner and rejected it. The high court, while disposing of the anticipatory bail application, had also returned the case diary.

The counsel for Srinivas had argued that all charges levelled against the IYC president under various sections, barring those under Section 354 of the IPC, are bailable in nature. Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) relates to assault or use of criminal force on a woman with the intention of outraging her modesty.

Besides, the alleged offence had occurred in Raipur in Chhattisgarh which was beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the Dispur police station, where the case was filed, the counsel for Srinivas had said.

The high court, after hearing both sides, had observed the victim is aged 35 years and, according to the order of the Kamrup (Metro) additional chief judicial magistrate, he was satisfied that she had “deposed voluntarily and without being under any pressure or influence from any side”.

Srinivas, in his petition filed in the high court on April 26, had appealed that the FIR filed by the woman alleging mental harassment and physical manhandling be quashed immediately.

The woman, in her complaint at Dispur police station, alleged that Srinivas was “persistently harassing and torturing her for the previous six months by making sexist comments, using slang words and also threatening her of dire consequences” if she kept complaining against him to senior party office bearers

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She had also claimed Srinivas had heckled her, held her arm, pushed and pulled her and used slang words during the party’s recent plenary session in Raipur. He had also threatened to ruin her career in the party if she complained against him.

The woman had made the allegations against the IYC president in a series of tweets on April 18.

A five-member Guwahati police team went to Bengaluru on April 23 and pasted a notice at Srinivas’ residence directing him to appear at the Dispur Police station by May 2.

The Congress issued show cause notice to the woman and later expelled her from the primary membership of the party for six years for anti-party activities. Srinivas had also served a legal notice to the woman demanding an apology, failing which he threatened to initiate legal proceedings.

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