Supreme Court on Monday stayed the 2019 Allahabad High Court bail order and has asked the main accused, Yogesh Raj, in the Bulandshahr mob violence case to surrender within the next seven days. A violent mob, protesting the slaughtering of cows, lynched a police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh and a local youth in December 2018.
The bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh stayed the order by Allahabad High Court under which the main accused was granted bail.
The bench noted, “We can’t permit these things to go on. We are very sure about it. We can’t permit lynching at all.”
“We have heard learned Counsel for parties at some length. It appears that the charges have not been framed. There is no question of even examining the independent witnesses…The matter is quite serious where under the pretext of cow slaughter, a police officer has been lynched. Prima facie, it is a case of taking law into their own hands. We are thus of the view that Yogesh Raj be asked to surrender within a period of 7 days from today. To that extent the impugned orders granting him bail are stayed,” the bench said.
The bench also expressed its disappointment over the inaction on the part of the trial court and stated, “We call for a report from the Trial Court as to how much time do they need to frame charges then to record the testimony of the independent witnesses.”
In December 2018, inspector Subodh Kumar Singh and a localite Sumit Kumar were lynched by a mob near Siyana village, Bulandshahr district. The mob was protesting against the alleged cow slaughter.
The bench was hearing a plea by Rajni Singh, the wife of the deceased. She had challenged the 2019 Allahabad High Court bail order. The main accused, Yogesh Raj, was granted bail in section 124 (A) (Sedition). He had also got bail under other IPC Sections including 120 B (conspiracy), 147 (rioting), and others.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, representing the petitioner, informed the court about the criminal antecedents of the accused who had filed a counter-affidavit to support his submission that he had not flouted any bail condition.
He added, “In the first matter, Yogesh Raj who was the leader of the mob filed an affidavit saying that your lordships should not cancel bail, that he has not violated any of the conditions of the bail. To which I have filed a rejoinder pointing out he contested elections when he threatened to murder somebody who had not voted for him.”
He mentioned that an FIR was filed against Yogesh Raj after he was out on bail for committing offences under Section 147, Section 148, Section 308, Section 352, Section 504, Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code.
He was accused of attempting to kill a family for not casting a vote in his favour during the Panchayat elections.
Referring to the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in Tehseen Poonawala vs Union of India case, Advocate Hegde said, “More than 3 years have passed since the incident, however charges are yet to be framed because of his influence. I have also enclosed the guidelines in Tehseen Poonawalla which cover incidents like this which call for speedy trials in the dedicated courts. The pandemic may have come in between.”
He contended, ” The right of personal liberty accorded to all by the Constitution is neither unfettered nor unbridled.The right must necessarily be placed and tested in the balance alongside larger societal needs of peace and orderly conduct.”
No Trial Since Last 3 Years, By That Logic I’ll Be In Jail Forever: Another Accused In Bulandshahr Mob Lynching
Another Accused, who is in jail for the past three years and had not been granted bail by Allahabad High Court, has also moved the apex court to grant him bail.
Advocate-on-Record, Mr. Rohit Amit Sthalekar appearing for the accused Lokendra has argued,
“First and foremost the allegations of criminal antecedents do not stand against me. Even in the chargesheet it has been categorically mentioned that I have no criminal antecedent. Second important fact is that I am 40% paralysed. I have polio by birth. Now, my incrimination has come only on the basis of video footage which has been allegedly stated in the statements of only two witnesses that I have been running in the mob. And the allegation is not of killing the police officer, but that I was a part of the mob and one person Prashant Nath actually fired the gun after snatching it from the police officer. There is no allegation of killing against me. The allegation is also that I was shouting ‘Maaro, maaro”. The FIR does not name me, it is on the basis of CCTV footage. Any video footage showing me has not been filed. Possession of CCTV footage has not been recovered from my possession.”
“It is a case of mob violence, over the alleged incident of cow slaughter,” the bench said.
Contending that the High Court had denied him bail only over the statements of two witnesses, the Mr. Sthalekar said,
“The only fact today is that my bail has been rejected on the basis of the statement of two witnesses. Those two witnesses, one is the complainant. The complainant categorically does not mention this incident in the FIR. The second police officer whose statement has been recorded, in that statement he has not even seen, not an eye-witness to the incident. In the second statement he says…There is categorical inconsistency. That apart there are new evidence that have been filed. These two people have not given any video footage where I was seen.”
“Every other accused has been released on bail and there is no challenge to their bail order. My lord, there are four people who have been alleged to be a part of the mob, who assaulted the police officer who died…Out of these 4 people, only I am in jail for the last three years. Every other person has been released on bail,” he added.
The Supreme Court bench apprised the Advocate-on-Record that the petitioner has not only sought sustenance of his client’s incarceration but has also sought cancellation of the bail orders of the other accused.
“There are two other petitions that have come before us where bail has been granted. Now, effectively that this bail should be cancelled and the order passed in your case of continued incarceration be sustained, that is the effect,” the bench said.
“Categorical assertion has to be made by the state. They have not done so,” said Sthalekar.
“The other important factor is that this is not a matter of trial. There are 128 witnesses, the charges have not yet been filed. The trail has not yet begun. By that logic I’ll be in jail forever. I have already been in jail for the last 3 years,” the petitioner submitted.
The bench asked, “In the Counter Affidavit, they say charges have been filed. We will ask the Counsel for the State what steps they have taken to include these sections.”
“In Lokendra’s matter chargesheet has been filed…In Rajni Singh’s matter the accused was also mentioned in the FIR, lead the FIR. In Lokendra’s matter, he is still in jail and charges of S.302 etc have been framed as per our Counter Affidavit,” submitted the Additional Advocate General, Mr. Ajay Kumar Mishra, appearing for the State of UP.
“What we are asking is this, that if you say that the bail has to be cancelled, why did you not file a SLP…You say that certain charges….has not been included while taking cognisance. What did you do?” the bench said while rephrasing its query.
Mr. Mishra mentioned that the complainant had filed an SLP within a month of the impugned order and the State had only filed the counter affidavit to support her case.
Criticizing the inaction on the part of the state, the bench said, “It is very surprising that a complainant could follow the track of the case by filing SLP against granting of bail and you being a party who has opposed the bail application is saying that you want to take umbrage under the SLP filed by the complainant. Why have you not taken any steps? For the first time you are saying that S.34 has not been added.”
The bench added that the charges framed do not reflect Section 34, which would have serious consequences in a case of mob violence.
The bench went on to add, “It has to be there.Your specific case is that as a mob they came and attacked. Section 34(IPC) has to be there.”
To which, Mr. Mishra replied, “As per our instruction, charges of S 302 have been framed against three persons, in which Lokendra is already there. Our instructions are that Lokendra, Prashant, Rahul they all are still in jail and charges have been framed. There are about 44 accused persons…So far as Rajni’s matter is considered in this case, Yogesh Raj is S. 302 and 34 has not been put in the chargesheet.”