SC grants interim protection from arrest to Youth Cong chief in harassment case

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 17-05-2023 13:52 IST | Created: 17-05-2023 13:42 IST
SC grants interim protection from arrest to Youth Cong chief in harassment case
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In a relief to Indian Youth Congress president B V Srinivas, the Supreme Court on Wednesday granted him interim protection from arrest in a case lodged by an expelled woman leader of the party from Assam accusing him of causing mental agony.

Srinivas had challenged a Gauhati High Court order rejecting his anticipatory bail plea.

On May 5, the Gauhati High Court had rejected the anticipatory bail plea of Srinivas in a case lodged by Angkita Dutta, the expelled chief of Assam Youth Congress, accusing him of causing mental agony to her.

A bench of Supreme Court Justices B R Gavai and Sanjay Karol issued notices to the Assam government and others, seeking their replies in the matter by July 10.

''We have perused the (CrPC section) 164 statement which has been so graciously placed before us by the prosecution. We do not wish to say anything against the state at this stage.

''Taking into consideration the one-month delay in lodging FIR, the petitioner is entitled to interim protection. We direct that in the event of arrest, the petitioner shall be released on anticipatory bail on furnishing sureties to the sum of Rs 50,000,'' the bench said.

The top court directed Srinivas to cooperate in the investigation and appear before the police on May 22. It also directed him to cooperate in the inquiry being carried out with the National Commission for Women.

At the outset, Srinivas's counsel senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi submitted that the complainant raised the grievance of discrimination being faced in the party in the tweets before lodging the complaint.

Singhvi said that she also had given six interviews to the media before the complaint was lodged and there were no sexual harassment allegations in her statements.

As Additional Solicitor General S V Raju started arguing, the bench asked him whether he was appearing for the CBI or ED. The ASG replied that he is representing the Assam government.

The bench, in a lighter vein, then remarked, ''So the CBI, and ED have not yet come in.'' The ASG said that the matter cannot be termed as politically motivated as the complainant is a member of the same party. Raju submitted that Srinivas did not appear before the police in response to the notices and did not even respond to the notice issued by the National Commission for Women.

''We gave him a second notice. He says he is unwell. Consistently he is defying the notice'', Raju said.

The bench then again remarked, ''That might be because of your reputation. You had arrested someone at the airport.'' The remark was in reference to Congress leader Pawan Khera's arrest by the Assam Police at the airport after being deplaned from a Delhi-Raipur flight in connection with his alleged remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The high court in its order 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.

Opposing the bail plea, the public prosecutor had argued that Srinivas had filed two pre-arrest bail applications before the sessions court in Bengaluru and both were rejected after appreciating the material present in 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 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''.

The magistrate had recorded her statement after giving her two hours for reflection, it had said, adding the FIR appears to have been filed on April 20, after a preliminary inquiry and the investigation is at a nascent stage.

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

Dutta, 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.

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.

Dutta 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 Dispur Police station by May 2.

The Congress issued show cause notice to Dutta 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 Dutta demanding an apology, failing which he threatened to initiate legal proceedings.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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