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While coming down very heavily on the increasing most reprehensible tendency to file false cases, the Allahabad High Court in a learned, laudable, landmark, logical and latest judgment titled Manmohan Krishna vs State of UP and another in Application u/s 8=482 No. – 38781 of 2016 in Neutral Citation No. – 2024:AHC:31717 that was reserved on 13.02.2024 and then finally pronounced on 23.02.2024 has imposed a cost of Rs 5 lakhs on the Assistant Professor in Department of Economics in the University of Allahabad for filing false cases under Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 i.e., SC/ST Act against her colleagues. It must be noted that the Allahabad High Court made it abundantly clear that the law should not result in caste hatred. What also merits notice is that the Court was dealing with an application pertaining to a case in which a Professor had to pay a very heavy price for asking an Assistant Professor to take classes and teach properly.

By all accounts, it is definitely high time and Centre must now enact a law that if any woman files false cases against anyone, she would be punishable with a jail term of at least 2 years and maximum five years and a fine of minimum Rs 1 lakh and maximum five lakhs. This should be increased to a jail term of minimum five years and maximum ten years for men and similarly fine of minimum Rs 5 lakhs and maximum Rs 10 lakhs for men who dare to level false charges against anyone. This will definitely help a lot in reducing the court burden of huge backlog of pending cases to a very large extent. There can be no gainsaying that laws are meant to be used and certainly not misused and those who dare to still do so must be made to face the strictest punishment so that no one dares to misuse the law!

At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Prashant Kumar sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 2 that, “This is a case where a Professor had to pay a very heavy price for asking an Assistant Professor to take classes and teach properly. He was made an accused and had to face trial for at least eight years, and further had to face humiliation, stigma, for no fault of his own, and on the other hand, the complainant, by misusing the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (hereinafter referred as ‘the S.C./S.T. Act’), had virtually threatened the other seniors from taking any action against her.”

 While stating the purpose of the application, the Bench discloses in para 3 that, “The instant application under Section 482 Cr.P.C. has been preferred by the applicant praying for quashing charge sheet dated 08.10.2016 including the entire proceeding in Case No.689 of 2013, under Section 354C, 504, 506 of IPC and under Section 3(2)(va) of the S.C./S.T. Act, (S.T. No.127 of 2016) Police Station-Colonelganj, DistrictAllahabad pending in the Court of Special judge, SC/ST Act, Allahabad.”

FACTUAL MATRIX 

To put things in perspective, the Bench envisages in para 4 while elaborating on the facts of the case that, “The facts of the case in brief are that O.P. no.2 namely, Deep Shikha Sonkar was appointed as Assistant Professor in Department of Economics in University of Allahabad, and she joined in July, 2013 and at the time of her joining, Professor Jagdish Narain Purwar was the Head of Department. Prof. Jagdish Narain found working of the complainant unsatisfactory during her probation period and gave negative entry to her along with certain other Assistant Professors. Thereafter, Prof. Prahlad Kumar became the Head of Department of Economics on 15.02.2014, who also during the course of time evaluated the complainant and gave a negative report about her working.”

1st Complaint

As we see, the Bench then states in para 5 that, “Expressing her annoyance and out of the grudge, because of the negative report, she filed a complaint to the Women’s Advisory Board against Professor Prahlad Kumar and two other lady professors namely Dr. Swati Jain and Dr. Rekha Gupta, which was received on 14.01.2016.”

Allahabad HC Fines University Teacher Rs 5 Lakh for False SCST Act Case

2nd Complaint

Further, the Bench discloses in para 6 that, “Not being satisfied with this, a second complaint dated 19.01.2016 was sent to the Vice Chancellor of the Allahabad University by the complainant against Professor Jagdish Naranin Purwar and Professor Prahlad Kumar, which was delivered on the same day.”

3rd Complaint

Furthermore, the Bench mentions in para 7 that, “Yet another complaint was made on 13.02.2016 to the Committee for Complaints Against Sexual Harassment (hereinafter referred as ‘CCASH’).”

 Do note, the Bench notes in para 8 that, “All the aforesaid complaints were assigned to a six member Committee for Complaints Against Sexual Harassment (CCASH) for its report by the then Vice Chancellor of the Allahabad University.”

 While continuing in the same vein, the Bench specifies in para 9 that, “In the meantime, the applicant took charge as the Head of Department, Economics, University of Allahabad on 16.02.2016 and hence, the aforesaid Committee in its wisdom thought it proper to enquire the facts of the case from his also and thus the applicant clarified and provided certain documentary evidence regarding the allocation of rooms etc to the CCASH.”

 Be it noted, the Bench notes in para 10 that, “The aforesaid response of the applicant to the CCASH also weighed against the complaints of the respondent complainant and the Committee on 16.03.2016 resolved that all the allegations made by the respondent complainant in her three complaints against Prof. Prahlad Kumar, Prof. J.N. Purwar, Asst. Prof. Dr. Swati Jain and Asst. Prof. Dr. Rekha Gupta were false and were malafidely motivated.”

Still more, the Bench discloses in para 11 that, “On 23.02.2016, the then Dean, Faculty of Arts, Professor Jagdish Narain, to whom complaints were made by a number of students about competence of O.P. no.2/complainant as well as her absence from the classes, wrote an official letter to Head of Department (Professor Man Mohan Krishna) to take action against O.P. No.2 and Professor D.N. Oraon for their absence from the class. Over the leaf of the said letter, Professor Man Mohan Krishna marked the said letter to O.P. no.2 with the note, “To meet me to discuss the issue.”, which annoyed/irked her extremely.”

 4th Complaint

 Simply put, the Bench mentions in para 12 that, “O.P. no.2 yet made another complaint on 24.2.2016 against the Dean to Vice Chancellor mentioning wherein that she is being harassed because she belongs to Scheduled Caste Community.”

 5th Complaint

What’s more, the Bench observes in para 13 that, “In addition to it, she also lodged a complaint against the Dean on the same day to the police alleging the same incident. However, this complaint lodged with the police was withdrawn by her after six days.”

6th Complaint 

 Briefly stated, the Bench states in para 14 that, “The dismissal of all her three complaints by the CCASH caused annoyance to the complainant and she in order to teach a lesson started picking up petty arguments with seniors on some or the pretext like allotment of a chamber of her choice etc. and finally she on the insistence of her political supporters lodged the impugned FIR on 04.08.2016 against the applicant Prof. Manmoha Krishna along with Prof. Prahlad Kumar and one Prof. Javed Akhtar, which was registered as Case Crime No.701 of 2016 under Section 354C, 504, 506 IPC and under Section 3(2)(va) of the S.C./S.T. Act..”

7th Complaint 

 Not stopping here, the Bench further reveals in para 15 that, “Simultaneously, on 04.08.2016, the complainant respondent in regard to the same alleged incident sent another complaint against the applicant and others to the Vice Chancellor of the Allahabad University (though mentioned as 05.08.2016).”

 It cannot be glossed over that the Bench points out in para 56 that, “From the bare perusal of the contents of the FIR, and the statements under Section 161 and 164 CrP.C., it is quite apparent that there is no such allegation against the applicant that fortifies invoking of Section 354C of IPC against him. The ingredients of Section 354C of IPC of voyeurism is only applicable if an accused captures the image of a woman engaging in private act, in circumstances where she would usually have the expectations of not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person. In this case, the allegations levelled against the applicant does not fall within the category of the offence and hence, no offence is made out against him under Section 354C of IPC.”

 Most remarkably, the Bench expounds in para 68 that, “The S.C./S.T. Act has been enacted with the objective that the underprivileged need to be protected against any atrocities to give effect to the constitutional ideals. At the same time, the said Act cannot be converted into a charter for exploitation or oppression by any unscrupulous person or by police for extraneous reasons against other citizens as has been found on several occasions. Any harassment of an innocent citizen, irrespective of caste or religion, is against the guarantee of the Constitution. This Court must enforce such a guarantee. Law should not result in caste hatred. The Preamble to the Constitution, which is the guiding star for interpretation, incorporates the values of liberty, equality and fraternity. This Court is not expected to adopt a passive or negative role and remain bystander or a spectator if violation of rights is observed. It is necessary to fashion new tools and strategies so as to check injustice and violation of fundamental rights. No procedural technicality can stand in the way of enforcement of fundamental right.”

 Truth be told, the Bench points out in para 69 that, “The instant case is a classic case where a subordinate Professor, whenever had been asked to teach properly and to go well prepared in the classes, she would go and file complaint against the Head of Department. The entire complaint filed by her is nothing but a pure abuse of process of law and misuse of the provisions of the S.C./S.T. Act.”

 Needless to say, the Bench states in para 70 that, “The menace of filing false and frivolous cases under the S.C./S.T. Act is writ large. Various High Courts and the Hon’ble Supreme Court has taken very strict view of the same. This menace has been well considered by various High Courts and the Hon’ble Supreme Court.”

While citing the relevant case law, the Bench states in para 71 that, “Madras High Court in the matter of Jones vs. State 2004 Cri LJ 2755 has observed as follows:

“This Court recently has brought to light the misuse of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 against people of other community. This is another example of misuse of the Act. The purpose of bringing SC & ST Act is to put down the atrocities committed on the members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The law enforcing authorities must bear in mind that it cannot be misused to settle other disputes between the parties, which is alien to the provisions contemplated under the Act. An Act enacted for laudable purpose can also become unreasonable, when it is exercised overzealously by the enforcing authorities for extraneous reasons. It is for the authorities to guard against such misuse of power conferred on them.”

It is worth paying attention that the Bench notes in para 75 that, “There are other instances where the Supreme Court had passed order of exemplary costs. For reference :Sivamoorthy vs. University of Madras (2001) 10 SCC 483 and State of Punjab v. Bhajan Singh (2001) 3 SCC 565.”

Most forthrightly, the Bench mandates in para 76 that, “This is a case where there is pure abuse of process of law where the complainant, just to wreak the personal vengeance against the Head of Department, had tried to implicate him and his colleagues by filing false and frivolous cases. Whenever the Seniors/Head of Department/Professors asked her to teach properly and to take classes regularly, she would file a complaint against them. This is not one of the first case which happened. The complainant, who is a well educated lady, knows the provisions of law very well and she had been abusing the provisions of law for personal gain. The complaint filed by the complainant was nothing but a pure abuse of process of law.”

Most significantly, the Bench mandates in para 77 holding that, “Because of the filing of frivolous cases, the reputation and public image of the applicant and his colleagues, who are Professors and people with high morals and reputation, had been tarnished. They had to run from pillar to post, from Police Station to Court to save themselves. Evidently, this was false and frivolous case filed against the applicant only to wreak personal vengeance. Such kind of vexatious proceedings should not be allowed to continue and if anybody engages in doing so, such activities have to curbed down. This is a perfect case where exemplary cost should be imposed on the complainant/O.P. no.2. The loss of reputation, public image and the financial loss caused to the applicant are far much more, but as a token a cost of Rs.5 lacs is imposed on O.P. no.2 for abusing the process of law by filing frivolous cases only for personal vengeance and personal gains. This amount should be given to the applicant forthwith after making deduction from the salary of O.P. no.2 as well as other benefits given by her employer.”

 Quite significantly, the Bench holds in para 78 that, “Prima facie, on bare perusal of the FIR, the statements of O.P. no.2 under Sections 161 and 164 Cr.P.C., no offence for which the applicant has been charged, is made out.”

Strictly speaking, the Bench then propounds in para 79 holding that, “This is a case where the Court if does not interferes and exercises the inherent powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C., it will fail in its duty. In exercise of inherent powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C., the instant application is allowed and charge sheet dated 08.10.2016 and the entire criminal proceedings of Case No.689 of 2013 (S.T. No.127 of 2016), Police Station-Colonelganj, District-Allahabad pending in the Court of Special Judge, S.C./S.T. Act, so far it relates to the present applicant, are hereby quashed.”

All told, we thus see that the Allahabad High Court makes it indubitably clear that law should not result in caste hatred nor should it be misused. The Court thus imposed a heavy fine of Rs 5 lakhs for abusing law and filing false cases under SC/ST Act. It is high time and Centre must now definitely amend laws most urgently and those women who dare to misuse laws must be punished most severely for it and this most despicable, dastardly, derisive and dangerous trend of misusing laws meant for the safety of women must be stemmed most promptly which is possible only if strict laws as I pointed out in the beginning are now enacted at the earliest! No denying it!

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