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Petitioner v/s Respondent

    Criminal Petition Nos. 6942, 6969 of 2022

    Decided On, 12 September 2022

    At, High Court of Andhra Pradesh


    For the Petitioner: ------ For the Respondent: ------

Judgment Text

Common Order:

These Criminal Petitions are filed under Sections 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short “Cr.P.C.”), by the petitioner/accused seeking pre-arrest bail in the following crimes.

2. Crime No.138 of 2022 of Amalapuram Town Police Station is registered for the offences punishable under Sections 307, 143, 144, 147, 148, 151, 152, 332, 336, 427, 188, 353, read with 149 of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Damage to the Public Property Act and Section 32 of the Police Act and the petitioner herein was arrayed as A-45.

3. Crime No.140 of 2022 of Amalapuram Town Police Station, East Godavari District is registered for the offences punishable under Sections 341, 143, 144, 147, 148, 151, 336, 435,188 read with 149 of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Damage to the Public Property Act and Section 32 of the Police Act and the petitioner herein was arrayed A-45.

4. Since the petitioner in these criminal petitions is one and the same and the above crimes were registered in relation to Konaseema agitation, they are being disposed of by this common order.

5. The above crimes were registered basing on the reports lodged by Home Guard and driver of the RTC bus with regard to the incident that took place on 24.05.2022 pursuant to the notification issued by the Government by changing the name of Konaseema District as Dr.B.R.Ambedkar Konaseema District.

6. The case of the prosecution in brief is that on 24.05.2022 at about 4:00 P.M., on a call given by JAC of Konaseema Sadhana Committee, huge number of people gathered together for submitting objections pursuant to issuance of Gazette notification with regard to change of name of Konaseema District by violating the proceedings issued under Section 144 of Cr.P.C. and Section 30 of the Police Act. The mob started rally at Kalasam Centre, Amalapuram Town and proceeded to Clock Tower Centre and in the meanwhile various groups of public came from four corners to the clock tower centre and formed into a huge mob.

7. Thereafter the mob moved to Collectorate and on the way to Collectorate when the Police were discharging their duties, the mob pelted stones on the Police and burnt BVC collage bus which was used as transport vehicle for the Police.

8. Further when Police tried to control the mob at collectorate, the mob pelted stones on Police personnel due to which some of the Police sustained injuries, damaged the glasses of Collectorate Office and Ambedkar Bhavan.

9. Thereafter, the mob proceeded to Red Bridge (Erra Vanthena), intercepted two RTC buses, damaged them and set fire to the buses.

10. The mob further moved towards the house of MLA and pelted stoned on the house due to which glasses were damage. When cousin of MLA tried to pacify the matter and while he was taking video of the situation, the mob poured petrol on him, but he managed to escape. Then the mob entered into the house of MLA, set fire to the motorcycles and entire furniture in the house including house.

11. Heard Ms.Mulakala lakshmi Geet, learned counsel for the petitioner and learned Special Assistant Public Prosecutor for the respondent-state.

12. Learned counsel for the petitioner, in elaboration, contended that the petitioner is a news reporter in Greater News Telugu daily and he did not commit any offence and he is falsely implicated in these cases. Earlier, the petitioner got filed Criminal Petition Nos.3982 and 3984 of 2022 for grant of pre arrest bail and they were dismissed by this Court on 04.07.2022. There are changed circumstances and substantial part of the investigation is completed and most of the co-accused in the present crimes and other crimes registered in connection with the same incident were granted regular bails and pre-arrest bails and sought to consider the present petitions.

13. Learned Special Assistant Public Prosecutor has contended that the petitioner is identified as one of the participants as per data collected from print, electronic media and footage of CC TV Cameras and videos and his name is mentioned along with many others by the de facto complainant in his report. In the mob the petitioner is also one of the member, who damaged the public property i.e., glasses of the Ambedkar Bhavan and pelted stones against the police personnel and also a private bus was set to fire, which was meant for police bandobasth and he also involved in other sequences of offences took place in furtherance of the present incident. The investigation is going on. He further submits that in view of the facts stated above, the petitioner cannot be granted anticipatory bail since the offences are grave in nature and there is possibility of influence of other witnesses. As such the present criminal petition is liable to be dismissed.

14. The learned Special Assistant Public Prosecutor, while drawing attention of this Court to the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Kodungallu Film Society v. Union of India (2018) 10 SCC 713 : 2018 SCC Online SC 1719), contended that if at all this Court wants to consider granting bail to the petitioner, costs for damaging public property may be imposed on them as per the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The relevant portion of the said decision reads as under:

C. Liability of person causing violence

a) .......

b) .......

c) A person arrested for either committing or initiating, promoting, instigating or in any way causing to occur any act of violence which results in loss of life or damage to property may be granted conditional bail upon depositing the quantified loss caused due to such violence or furnishing security for such quantified loss......”

15. With regard to the contention of the learned Special Assistant Public Prosecutor, relying on the judgment cited supra, till today, there is no material to show that the petitioner has damaged any property. In view of the same, the decision relied on by the learned Special Assistant Public Prosecutor cannot be made applicable at this stage and his request to impose costs cannot be considered.

16. The Hon’ble Apex Court in Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre Vs. State of Maharashtra and Ors (AIR 2011 SC 312 = MANU/SC/1021/2010) laid the following principles which are to be considered while granting bail.

i. The nature and gravity of the accusation and the exact role of the accused must be properly comprehended before arrest is made;

ii. The antecedents of the applicant including the fact as to whether the accused has previously undergone imprisonment on conviction by a Court in respect of any cognizable offence;

iii. The possibility of the applicant to flee from justice;

iv. The possibility of the accused's likelihood to repeat similar or the other offences.

v. Where the accusations have been made only with the object of injuring or humiliating the applicant by arresting him or her.

vi. Impact of grant of anticipatory bail particularly in cases of large magnitude affecting a very large number of people.

vii. The courts must evaluate the entire available material against the accused very carefully. The court must also clearly comprehend the exact role of the accused in the case. The cases in which accused is implicated with the help of Sections 34 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code, the court should consider with even greater care and caution because over implication in the cases is a matter of common knowledge and concern;

viii. While considering the prayer for grant of anticipatory bail, a balance has to be struck between two factors namely, no prejudice should be caused to the free, fair and full investigation and there should be prevention of harassment, humiliation and unjustified detention of the accused;

ix. The court to consider reasonable apprehension of tampering of the witness or apprehension of threat to the complainant;

x. Frivolity in prosecution should always be considered and it is only the element of genuineness that shall have to be considered in the matter of grant of bail and in the event of there being some doubt as to the genuineness of the prosecution, in the normal course of events, the accused is entitled to an order of bail.”

17. The record reveals that pursuant to notification issued by the Government about change of name of Konaseema District as Dr.B.R. Ambedkar Konaseema District a call was given by JAC Konaseema District Sadhana Samithi for submission of representations. In pursuance of the same thousands of people gathered at Clock Tower Centre and proceeded to Collectorate Office. When Police tried to prevent them from entering the premises said mob pelted stones on the Police and caused injuries to them. Further the mob also damaged Collectorate Office as well as Ambedkar Building and also lit fire to buses.

18. As can be seen from the entire record prosecution identified accused basing on CC TV footage, social media videos and photos. Further except arrayed the name of accused basing on the confessional statement of other accused, no specific overt acts were attributed against the petitioner or any other accused.

19. As pointed out by learned counsel for the petitioner to attract Section 147 of IPC, there should unlawful assembly. For better appreciation it is appropriate to extract Section 141 and 147 of IPC.

141. Unlawful assembly.--An assembly of five or more persons is designated an "unlawful assembly", if the common object of the persons composing that assembly is--

(First) -- To overawe by criminal force, or show of criminal force, 1[the Central or any State Government or Parliament or the Legislature of any State], or any public servant in the exercise of the lawful power of such public servant; or

(Second) -- To resist the execution of any law, or of any legal process; or

(Third) -- To commit any mischief or criminal trespass, or other offence; or

(Fourth) -- By means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to any person, to take or obtain possession of any property, or to deprive any person of the enjoyment of a right of way, or of the use of water or other incorporeal right of which he is in possession or enjoyment, or to enforce any right or supposed right; or

(Fifth) -- By means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to compel any person to do what he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do what he is legally entitled to do.

Explanation.--An assembly which was not unlawful when it assembled, may subsequently become an unlawful assembly.

147. Punishment for rioting.--Whoever is guilty of rioting, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

20. Thus, there must be unlawful assembly as defined under Section 141 of IPC for attracting offences under Section 147 of IPC. In the present case nothing is forthcoming from the record to show that all the people in the mob had a common intention of committing an offence.

21. The other contention raised by learned Special Assistant Public Prosecutor is regarding applicability of Section 307 of IPC. Section 307 of IPC reads thus: 307. Attempt to murder.—Whoever does any act with such intention or knowledge, and under such circumstances that, if he by that act caused death, he would be guilty of murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; and if hurt is caused to any person by such act, the offender shall be liable either to 1[imprisonment for life], or to such punishment as is hereinbefore mentioned. Attempts by life convicts.— 2[When any person offending under this section is under sentence of 1[imprisonment for life], he may, if hurt is caused, be punished with death.]

22. In the present case, admittedly the mob consists of more than 1000 people. None of the complaints indicate about common intention or common object of committing an offence punishable under Section 307 of IPC. Specific overt acts were not attributed against the petitioner.

23. It is also evident from the record that the mob gathered for submitting their representations at Collectorate office, but not with an intention of committing any offence and admittedly the mob was not armed with weapons.

24. Considering the facts of this case, since no specific overt act was attributed against the petitioner and as this Court granted bail to other accused, who stands on same footing, this Court deems it appropriate to grant bail to the petitioner by duly taking the apprehensions made by the learned Special Assistant Public Prosecutor into consideration with the following conditions:

(i) The petitioner/accused shall be released on bail in the event of his arrest in connection with Crime Nos.138 and 140 of 2022 of Amalapuram Town Police Station, East Godavari District, on condition of executing a self bond for Rs.50,000/- (Rupees fifty thousand only) for each crime with

two sureties each for a likesum each to the satisfaction of the Station House Officer of Amalapuram Town Police Station, East Godavari District.

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/> (ii) The petitioner shall appear before the Station House Officer, Amalapuram Town Police Station, East Godavari District once in a week i.e. on every Saturday between 10.00 am and 12 noon till filing charge sheet. (iii) Apart from that the petitioner shall cooperate with the investigation and he shall make himself available to the Investigating Officer whenever required; iv) The petitioner shall not directly or indirectly contact the complainant or any other witnesses under any circumstances and any such attempt shall be construed as an attempt of influencing the witnesses and shall not tamper the evidence and shall co-operate with the investigation. Further, the petitioner shall scrupulously comply with the above conditions and if there is breach of any of the above conditions, it will be viewed seriously and it also entails cancellation of bail and in such case prosecution shall move appropriate application for such cancellation. It is made clear that this order does not, in any manner, limit or restrict the rights of the Police or the investigating agency from further investigation as per law and the findings in this order be construed as expression of opinion only for the limited purpose of considering bail in the above crime and shall not have any bearing in any other proceedings. Accordingly, the Criminal Petitions are allowed. Consequently, miscellaneous applications pending, if any, shall stand closed.