10 Jun 2121

The outcome of conflicts having social implications cannot be settled or authorised by amicable settlement just because the petitioner joined the respondent or defendant for quashing the FIR - Bombay High Court

Case : Rishi Prabha Ranjitkumar Prasad v. The State of Maharashtra and Ors. Criminal Writ Petition No. 4330 of 2019 along with Criminal Writ Petition No. 1476 of 2021

Court : Bombay High Court

Bench : Justice S. S. Shinde and Justice N. R. Borkar

Decided on : 10 Jun 2121

The Relevant Statutes

Article 2, 5, 9, 27, 31, 32, 36, 37 of the Constitution of India

Section 370 and 34 of Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 1(4), 2(14), 75, 79 and 23 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

Brief Facts & Procedural History

1. The first informant claims that he and his wife have worked as cleaners at Harikunj Society for the past ten years. The first informant had seen the presence of a little girl of around 10 years of age at the Petitioners' house for roughly one month previous to the filing of the impugned FIR while working at the said society. The alleged victim girl is said to have dropped the petitioner's younger daughter off at school and then waited for her to bring her home, where she would meet the first informant and his wife and speak with them. If she was hungry, the first informant would typically buy her a vadapav.

2. During these discussions, the victim girl would tell the first informant and his wife that she was from Delhi and that she was working in the Petitioner's house performing menial tasks like cleaning the bed, washing dishes, and caring for the petitioner's younger daughter. The first informant encountered the victim girl while cleaning the society and gave her vadapav since she was hungry. The victim girl reportedly informed the first informant that she had forgotten the home keys inside the house and that the house door had been closed, leaving the keys inside the house, and that the petitioners had beaten her as a result of her error. As a result, the first informant felt sorry for the poor girl and reported her to the Chembur Police Station. Mr Krishna Mishra, the first informant, has filed an affidavit stating that the case has been handled peacefully and without any monitory consideration. The first informant contacted the parents of the claimed victim girl and after a lengthy discussion with them, he realised that his complaint was based on a misunderstanding and that he does not want to punish the petitioners, therefore he is dropping his complaint. He has no problem with the petitioners, and he consents to the quashing of the contested FIR.

3. Mr Samphul Das and Mrs Sunitadevi Samphul Das are husband and wife, and they live at the residence listed in the affidavit with their five unmarried children. The victim is a 14-year-old female out of every five youngsters. According to deponent no. 1, he works as an agricultural labourer on the property of Mr Ranjitkumar Prasad's brother, who is the petitioner in Writ Petition No. 1476 of 2021.

4. The relationship between Ranjitkumar Prasad and his family are said to be friendly and good. It is also said that deponent no. 1 was not earning a sufficient amount to support the entire family's living costs, so they begged Mr Ranjitkumar Prasad, who works in Mumbai, to take the victim girl to Mumbai for her well-being, and Mr Ranjitkumar Prasad consented to do so. Mrs Rishi Prabha Ranjitkumar Prasad, at their request and with their agreement, transported the victim girl by rail from Delhi to Mumbai for her safety and wellbeing. It is also said that when their daughter, the victim girl, arrived in Mumbai, they kept in continuous contact with her and petitioners, and they were convinced that the victim girl was happy with petitioners and had never shown any sadness to them. The petitioners were also allegedly attempting to enrol the victim daughter in a Chembur, Mumbai, school. They learned that an FIR was about to be filed against the petitioners, so they flew to Mumbai to clear up the misunderstanding and unjust action against the petitioners, as well as visit their daughter.

5. The daughter, on the other hand, was in the custody of the Child Welfare Committee, and despite their several attempts to meet her, they were not permitted to do so. It is claimed that the FIR filed against the petitioners by the Chembur Police Station in Mumbai is completely erroneous and stems from a misunderstanding. It is also said that they have asked Mr Ranjitkumar Prasad to keep their daughter with them for her safety and well-being. During her time in Mumbai, their daughter victim girl kept in touch with them and informed them that she was happy and that the petitioners had taken good care of her by giving her clothing, food, and other necessities. As a result, it is asked that the FIR filed with Chembur Police Station under C.R. No. 274 of 2018 be quashed. 

The Issue of the Case

Whether FIR bearing No. 274 of 2018 and charge sheet filed in Sessions Case No. 860 of 2019 to be quashed and set aside?

The Observations of the Court

1. The High Court of Judicature at Bombay observes that the victim's parents and the original complainant have each produced affidavits indicating that they have no objection to the quashing of the contested FIR and charge sheet. It is also true that the victim girl's parents stood before us in the chamber and indicated that they had no problem with the FIR and charge sheet being quashed. Victim statements, on the other hand, cannot be dismissed. She was ten years old at the time of the incident. There are also statements from more than ten witnesses that are relevant to the prosecution's case.

2. The investigating officer has also gathered CCTV video and damning evidence, as well as the testimonies of the CCTV operator. Some of the witnesses whose testimonies were recorded by the investigating officer live in the same society, according to a copy of the letter appended to the charge sheet. The FIR and charge sheet cannot be overturned simply because the victim's and complainant's parents have written affidavits, thereby joining the petitioners' request to have the impugned FIR cancelled based on an amicable settlement. The victim's statements, as well as witness testimonies and other damning evidence, would be sufficient to proceed with the trial. The Public Prosecutor has strongly opposed the petitioner's request to dismiss the FIR based on an alleged amicable settlement between the victim's parents, the initial complainant, and the petitioners. At first glance, it appears that the victim's parent's financial situation is insufficient to meet their family's demands, and as a result, the girl was placed in the petitioners' custody in Delhi. It indicates that the victim travelled from Delhi to Mumbai with Rishi Prabha Ranjitkumar Prasad.

3. Referring to the case Gian Singh Versus State of Punjab and Another (2012) 10 SCC 303, the Honourable Supreme Court stated that a compromise between the victim and the offender concerning special statutes such as the Prevention of Corruption Act or offences committed by public servants while in that capacity, etc., cannot provide any basis for quashing criminal proceedings involving such offences. The petitioners, in this case, are being prosecuted under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, which is a Special Act.

4. Referring to the case of State of M.P. Versus Laxmi Narayan (2019) 5 SCC 688, The Honourable Supreme Court has stated that when exercising the power under Section 482 and dealing with a claim that the dispute has been resolved, the High Court must consider the nature and seriousness of the offence. Even if the victim or the victim's family has settled the issue, heinous and serious crimes involving mental depravity, such as murder, rape, and dacoity, cannot be legitimately quashed. Such offences are, in a sense, not private, but they have a significant social consequence. In such circumstances, the decision to continue the trial is based on the overarching public interest in punishing those who have committed significant crimes.

The Decision Held by the Court

1. The High Court of Judicature at Bombay reject the contested FIR and charge sheet based on a purported amicable settlement between the petitioners, the victim's parents, and the complainant. As a result, writ petitions are dismissed.

2. The preceding observations are preliminary and are limited to the determination of the current writ petitions. During the trial, the trial court shall not be affected by the abovementioned observations.

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