The Gujarat High Court has for the first time, started e-filing of petitions and affidavits. It is also allocated two benches for hearing matters through video conferencing and is even accepting virtual corpus in habeas corpus cases. But for the first time, in the bail application R/CR.A/527/2020 of Jayesh Mansukhbhai Bhavarava v State of Gujarat, the Gujarat High Court has allowed service via WhatsApp to contact Respondent 2 Bhartiben Singhal, over and above service by the regular mode.
As per the procedure followed in criminal matters, especially after invoking the Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, a notice needs to be served to the complainant before deciding the bail application. The mode of such service is usually the police. Hence, this is was a distinctive order given by the High Court amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Facts of the case
Earlier, on 24 February 2020, the Court of Special (Atrocity) Judge & 2nd Additional Sessions Judge at Morbi had rejected the bail application of the applicant keeping in mind the seriousness and gravity of the offence. The applicant who was a contract labourer had raped and committed the offence of voyeurism against Respondent no. 2 who was a labour worker.
After a complaint had been launched against him, the applicant had been arrested and taken into judicial custody after which he had applied for bail. He had been booked under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 and the Information Technology Act.
Issues faced by the Applicant
After the rejection of the bail application by the Sessions Court, Bhavarava wanted to apply for bail in the Gujarat High Court. Due to the Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 being invoked, the law required him to serve a notice to the complainant before deciding the bail application.
He was unable to serve the notice of application Respondent no. 2 because of the prevailing COVID-19 situation. It was very difficult for him to get a copy to the police to forward it to the complainant. The applicant’s lawyer had the original complainant’s mobile number available with him and wished to serve her the notice by the means of WhatsApp.
Order of the High Court
Keeping all these facts and circumstances in mind, Justice A Y Kogje admitted the case on Wednesday 22nd April 2020 and allowed Bhavarava’s lawyer to send the High Court’s notice to Bhartiben on her WhatsApp number or any other messaging services. But to do so, he would have to obtain her consent first.
The matter has been listed for final hearing on 6th May 2020.
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