In the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, the appellant, Mr. Amit Sadanand Shelar, filed Criminal Appeal No.14 of 2019 to challenge an order by the Sessions Court, Thane, which had denied him anticipatory bail. The case involved allegations against him under 376(2)(c)(J)(n), 328, 323, 504, 506 various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SCST Act). The charges included serious offenses like rape, assault, and others falling under the SCST Act.
The Honorable High Court, comprising Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice A.M. Badar, conducted the hearing on 25th July 2019 and provided an oral judgment. The parties involved were Mr. Amit Sadanand Shelar (the appellant), the State of Maharashtra (respondent), Mr. Tanveer Nizam, Mariam Nizam, and Shruti Kelji representing the appellant, Mrs. Megha Bajoria as the appointed Advocate for Respondent No. 2, and Mrs. M.M. Deshmukh as the Assistant Public Prosecutor for the State.
The appellant appealed under Section 14A of the SCST Act against an order from the Sessions Court, Thane, dated 31st December 2018. The Sessions Court had rejected his application for anticipatory bail in connection with Crime No. I222/2018, which included charges under Section 376(2)(c)(j)(n), 328, 323, 504, 506 of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 3(12) of the SCST Act. The crime was registered at the CBD Police Station in Navi Mumbai.
During the appeal’s proceedings, the Investigating Officer, who was the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Turbhe Division, Navi Mumbai, informed the Court that the amended provisions of the SCST Act were added to the case diary upon re-examination of the matter. This meant that the charges now included offenses under both the Indian Penal Code and the SCST Act.
The appellant’s counsel argued that the First Information Report (FIR) suggested a consensual relationship between the appellant and the first informant. They presented text messages and recorded conversations between them to support this argument. They contended that the FIR was lodged belatedly, almost 18 months after the alleged incidents, and only after the first informant’s husband grew suspicious.
Moreover, the appellant’s counsel contended that a careful examination of the relevant sections of the SCST Act invoked against the appellant indicated that the charges did not align with the material collected by the prosecution. Hence, they argued that the bar set by either Section 18 or Section 18A of the SCST Act was not applicable to this case.
In opposition, the learned Assistant Public Prosecutor argued that incriminating material, such as screen shots from the first informant’s cellphone, pointed toward the appellant’s guilt. The appellant’s alleged actions, as depicted in these screen shots, suggested offenses under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code as well as the SCST Act. Given that the first informant belonged to the Scheduled Caste, the prosecution contended that the bar under Section 18 and 18A of the SCST Act applied, making him ineligible for bail.
The Court also heard the appointed advocate for respondent No. 2 (the first informant), who supported the prosecution’s contentions and the lower court’s decision.
The Court delved into the case diary and observed that the first informant was a married woman, 31 years old, and a police constable. She alleged a sexual relationship with the appellant, a Police Sub Inspector, between March 2017 and October 2018. The incidents were claimed to have taken place at various locations, including lodges, hotels, and both their residences. Notably, the appellant had allegedly recorded their interactions on his cellphone.
The Court found that while the first informant alleged bleeding injuries, her medical examination did not corroborate these claims. The Court emphasized that the case revolved around consent and questioned the delay in reporting, given that the first informant was an adult with ample opportunities to disclose the incidents earlier. The text messages exchanged between them further suggested a consensual nature of their relationship.
The Court also highlighted that the forensic examination of the appellant’s cellphone did not provide conclusive evidence of incriminating material. The first informant’s cellphone was not produced before investigators, and the appellant’s claim that screen shots could be manipulated through certain applications was acknowledged.
In light of these considerations, the Court held that the case seemed to involve a consensual relationship, and the penal provisions of the SCST Act might not be applicable. The Court allowed the appeal, quashed the lower court’s order denying anticipatory bail, and ordered the appellant’s release on bail with certain conditions.
The Court stressed that its observations were preliminary and wouldn’t impact the trial. It also noted that custodial interrogation wasn’t necessary given the available evidence. The Court’s decision was based on careful scrutiny of the evidence, the circumstances, and the legal definitions of consent.