The Supreme Court Thursday slammed the Allahabad High Court for allowing former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Chinmayanand to access a copy of the statement by the 23-year-old woman who had filed a sexual harassment case against him.
“The right to receive a copy of such a statement (made under Section 164 of the CrPC) will arise only after cognizance is taken and at the stage contemplated by Sections 207 and 208 of the Code and not before”, the Court said.
It added that the filing of the charge-sheet by itself did not entitle an accused to copies of any of the relevant documents including a statement under Section 164 of the Code.
By the time, the victim could challenge the decision of the High Court, a copy of her statement recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC was made available to the accused.
Section 164 of the CrPC provides for the recording of confessions and statements before the Magistrate.
Chiding the High Court for its erroneous decision, a three-judge bench led by Justice U U Lalit said that the High Court completely erred in its understanding of the directions issued by the apex Court in the State of Karnataka by Nonavinakere Police vs. Shivanna alias Tarkari Shivanna, especially in a matter where the offences alleged against the accused were of sexual exploitation.
“In such matters utmost confidentiality is required to be maintained. In our view, the High Court completely failed in that behalf”, the bench said which also comprised Justices Vineet Saran and Ravindra Bhat.
In the Shivanna case, the top court had held that a statement under Section 164 CrPC should be handed over to the investigating officer immediately with a specific direction that the contents of such statement should not be disclosed to any person till a charge-sheet/report under Section 173 CrPC is filed.
Referring to Section 190 of the CrPC which deals with cognizance of offences by a Magistrate, the bench held that it is only after cognizance is taken and process is issued that the accused is entitled, in terms of Sections 207 and 208 of the CrPC, to copies of these documents. The bench, thus, held that the filing of a charge-sheet by itself did not entitle an accused to copies of the statement under Section 164 of the CrPC.
However, the Allahabad High Court erred in its understanding of the decision of the top court in Shivanna, and instead relied upon its own decision in Raju Janki Yadav vs. State of U.P. and others which was rendered before the decision in Shivanna.
The bench has now held that the decision of the Division Bench of the High Court on which reliance was placed in the present matter must be held to be subject to the directions issued by this Court in the Shivanna case.
The bench eventually held that though, a copy of the statement recorded under Section 164 of the Code was made over to the accused, the order of the High Court was set aside. It also said that under no circumstances should copies of statements recorded under Section 164 of the Code be furnished till appropriate orders are passed by the Court after taking cognizance in the matter.
Chinmayanand is accused of offences punishable under Sections 376C (Intercourse by superintendent of jail, remand home, etc.), 354D(stalking), 342 (wrongful confinement), 506(criminal intimidation)of IPC.
An LLM student of SS Law College, run by Mumukshu Ashram of Chinmayanand, had accused the Swami of rape and harassment for over a year. He was arrested on September 20, 2019 and languished in Shajahanpur district jail till he got bail from High Court on February 3, this year.
In September last year, the apex court had instructed the state government to constitute SIT to inquire into the allegations. It had also directed the Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad to constitute a Bench to monitor the investigations of the case.
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The article was originally published in The Leaflet.