Rape accused can’t access complaint before trial: SC

9 months ago 49
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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday said no accused in a sexual harassment case was entitled to access a woman complainant’s statement recorded by a magistrate under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code till the trial court took cognisance of the chargesheet. The ruling came in a much discussed case involving former minister Swami Chinmayanand, who had been MoS home in the Vajpayee government.
A bench of Justices U U Lalit, Vineet Saran and S Ravindra Bhat disapproved of an Allahabad HC decision to give a copy of a girl’s statement recorded under Section 164 CrPC to Chinmayanand, accused of sexual harassment by the complainant, who was a student in a Shahjahanpur law college managed by the ashram run by the former minister.
The Supreme Court said, "The filing of the chargesheet by itself does not entitle an accused to copies of any of the relevant documents, including statement under Section 164 of the Code. No person is entitled to a copy of statement recorded under Section 164 of the Code till the appropriate orders are passed by the court after the chargesheet is filed."
Like the Hathras case which has attracted massive media coverage, the allegation of sexual assault by the former minister had gone viral after the girl made a social media post accusing Chinmayanand of ruining the lives of many girls. Chinmayanand had dismissed the charge as blackmail tactics and counter-alleged that Rs 5 crore demand was made with the threat that non-payment would lead to ruining his reputation. The SC had suo motu taken cognisance of the incident on August 30 last year, the day the girl was traced to Dausa, Rajasthan.
The SC had ordered, "We are not expressing any opinion regarding the grievances expressed by the girl Miss A and apprehensions of her parents. All that we wish to point out is that the correctness of the grievances/apprehension has to be addressed as per the procedure established in law. In view of above, we direct the chief secretary, Uttar Pradesh, to constitute a special team headed by a police officer in the rank of the inspector general of police to be assisted by the superintendent of police and a team of police officers to enquire into the grievances expressed by Miss A and insofar as the apprehension expressed by the parents of Miss A."
The SC had also asked the SIT so constituted to investigate the FIR lodged by Chinmayanand about alleged blackmail and demand of extortion money and had requested the chief justice of Allahabad HC to monitor the investigations. The chargesheet was filed after investigations and immediately the accused moved the court for supply of a copy of the Section 164 CrPC statement of the complainant, which was given by the HC to the accused.
The woman had filed a petition challenging the decision of the HC. The Justice Lalit-led bench said there was a clear enunciation of procedure by the SC mandating that a witness's statement recorded under Section 164 CrPC would be handed over to the investigating officer with strict direction not to divulge it to anyone prior to filing of chargesheet.

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