On 21st September 2020, a Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Justice Alok Kumar Verma heard the case of Rajendra Singh Bhandari v. State of Uttarakhand & Another via video conferencing.
The Application was filed under Section 482 (Saving of inherent powers of High Court) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to quash the Charge Sheet registered with Police Station Gopeshwar, District Chamoli and, cognizance order passed by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Chamoli in the case of State vs. Rajendra Singh Bhandari, 2012 under Section 125 (Promoting enmity between classes in connection with election) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
Facts of the Case
Elections of the Legislative Assembly of Uttarakhand were held in the year 2012. The Applicant contested the said election from 04 Badrinath Assembly Constituency as a candidate of the Indian National Congress Party. While contesting the said elections, the Applicant had printed a picture (photo) of Lord Badrinath in his handbills as well as pamphlets. On account of this illegal activity on part of the Applicant to influence the voters and using the religious feelings of local people, an FIR was lodged against the Applicant under Section 125 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and Section 153A of the IPC (punish persons who indulge in wanton vilification or attacks upon the religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc) by the Returning Officer.
Contentions of the Applicant
Learned counsel appearing for the Applicant submitted that by mere printing of pamphlets with the picture of Shri Badrinath Temple, no offence under Section 125 of the Act was constituted. Further during the investigation, no evidence was collected by the Investigating Officer which would infer the promotion of religious enmity or hatred between two communities on account of the fact of printing of the pamphlets, containing the photo of Lord Badrinath Temple.
Contentions of the State
Mr S.S. Adhikari, Learned Deputy Advocate General, appearing for the State, opposed the submissions of the learned counsel for the Applicant and submitted that the Investigating Officer found credible evidence against the applicant for his involvement in the commission of the crime. He further contended that there was a specific case against the applicant for his involvement in the commission of the crime and after completion of the investigation, the Investigating Officer filed the Charge Sheet against the Applicant.
The Court observed the importance and scope of Section 482 of the CrPC, which envisages three circumstances in which the inherent jurisdiction may be exercised. Section 482 of the Code reads as follows: “Saving of inherent powers of High Court:- nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.”
The Court referred to the following cases to determine the scope of Section 482 of the CrPC:
- Madhu Limaya Vs. The State of Maharashtra, 1978 AIR 47
- Pepsi Food Limited vs. Special Judicial Magistrate and others, 1998 (36) ACC 20
- Lee Kun Hee and others vs. State of U.P. and others, JT 2012 (2) SC 237
- The State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal (1992) Supp. (1) SCC 335
The Court, in this case, took cognizance in the offence punishable under Section 125 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951: “Promoting enmity between classes in connection with the election – Any person who in connection with an election under this Act promotes or attempts to promote on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language, feelings of enmity or hatred, between different classes of the citizens of India shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”
The Court opined that the use of the expression “promotes or attempts to promote” in Section 125 of the Act, 1951 shows that there has to be mens rea on the part of the accused to commit the offence of promoting disharmony amongst different religions under Section 125, whereas, the case of the applicant was that the matter was launched by the political opponents. The Court further said that these allegations were required to be tested only at the time of trial. Further, the Court cannot hold a parallel trial in an Application under Section 482 of the CrPC.
The prayers for quashing the charge-sheet and setting aside the cognizance order along with entire proceedings were dismissed by the Court. The Court also clarified that the observations made were only for the disposal of the Application, filed under Section 482 of the CrPC, and the observations would not influence the trial court while deciding the case.
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