Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Mevani bail: HC stays Barpeta Court observations on police

The Gauhati High Court Monday stayed some observations made by the Barpeta District and Sessions Court while granting bail to Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani. The expunged remarks, the high court said, were made “without there being any materials on record”.
The Assam government had challenged the District and Sessions Court order, both the bail as well as the observations made by the judge regarding the Assam Police.
Granting bail to Mevani on Friday, the local court in Barpeta had cited “ongoing police excesses in the state” and urged the Gauhati High Court to direct the police force to “reform itself”. “Converting our hard earned democracy into a police state is simply unthinkable, and if the Assam Police is thinking about the same, the same is perverse thinking,” the court had said.
“Certain observations and remarks in the order had a very demoralising effect on the functioning of the Assam Police, therefore, we decided to challenge the order,” Debojit Saikia, Advocate General of Assam told The Indian Express.
In court, Saikia submitted that the observations made by the judge “not only demoralise the police force but also cast aspersion upon it”. He argued that it would have a “cascading effect” on the “morale” of the Assam Police as well as the state of Assam. In his order, Justice Devashis Baruah of the High Court said that certain observations (on the Assam Police) “had no relevance to the consideration of the bail application”. “These observations were made without there being any materials on record, on the basis of which the learned judge could have made such observations and consequently, this court stays the above quoted observations until further orders,” he said, in his order.
The quoted observations included Chakravarty asking the High Court to consider directing “each and every police personnel engaged in law and order duty to wear body cameras, to install CCTV cameras in vehicles while arresting an accused or taking an accused to some place for recoveries of goods or other reasons, and also install CCTV cameras inside all police stations”. These measures should be considered to “prevent registration of false FIR like the present one and to give credibility to the police version of occurrences like the arrest of accused persons and the accused persons attempting to escape from police custody at midnight, while the accused was allegedly leading the police personnel to discover something, and the police personnel firing and killing or injuring such accused, which has become a routine phenomenon in the state”, it said.
The High Court further stayed the part where Chakravarty observed that the “testament of the victim” showed that the case had been “manufactured for the purpose of keeping the accused for a longer period, abusing the process of the court and law”.
“These findings are also prima facie beyond the exercise of the jurisdiction of Sessions Court in a proceeding under Section 439, CrPC, and accordingly the said observation is also stayed,” the High Court said.
However, the court clarified that the order should not be “misconstrued” as a stay on bail granted to Mevani, and added that the state of Assam was at liberty to challenge the order through its public prosecutor.
Mevani, an Independent MLA who had pledged support to the Congress last September, was arrested by the Assam Police from Gujarat’s Banaskantha district late on April 20 and flown to Guwahati the next morning following a complaint filed by a BJP leader in Kokrajhar district over a purported tweet against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On April 25, Mevani was granted bail by a Kokrajhar court, but was re-arrested in a fresh case filed in Barpeta district on the basis of a complaint by a woman police officer who accused him of “assaulting” her and “outraging her modesty”. It was in the latter case that the Barpeta court had given him bail.


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