HC junks both FIRs against VCA, dubs police conduct as ‘unethical’

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 18 Mar 2017 10:26:40

Staff Reporter,

• Cops under fire for filing FIR out of vengeance, with malafide motives

• High Court pulls up police officers for disregarding opinion of Advocate General

Junking both the First Information Reports (FIRs) filed by Nagpur Police against Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) and their office-bearers, Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Friday quashed both the FIRs and pulled the cops for initiating criminal prosecution with malafide motives and sheer out of vengeance.

Hingna Police had registered the FIRs on January 31, 2017 for the offences under sections 188, 336 of the IPC and sections 131A and 335 of the Maharashtra Police Act during the India-England Twenty20 match played at the Jamtha Stadium on January 29.

A division bench consisting of Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Indira Jain minced no words while deprecating the behaviour of top police officers in disregarding the opinion of the Advocate General, who is highest law officer and constitutional functionary and strongly criticised the Commissioner of Police for “unethical” behaviour and not keeping his word to abide by the report submitted by the Advocate General.

The entire top police brass came under fire during the hearing held on Friday. The High Court granted time twice to respondent authorities to explain their stance. Finally, at around 2 pm when the Commissioner of Police sought two weeks time to consider the opinion of the Advocate General and take decision, it turned out to be proverbial last straw on camel’s back.

Condemning the conduct of Commissioner of Police for not keeping the department’s assurance to abide by the Advocate General’s opinion on the controversy and give a quietus to entire controversy, the High Court dubbed action of Hingna Police in registering FIR against the VCA office-bearers as “abuse of the legal process”. It quashed the criminal proceedings under the FIR to prosecute the VCA office-bearers.

In the exhaustive opinion submitted by the Advocate General Rohit Deo, there is no legal justification for prosecuting the applicants and as such there is no material on record making out the offences alleged against them. Even if it is assumed that FIR could have been registered for Noise pollution, the appropriate course would be to forward the information and report of the investigation to the authority competent to set in motion the process of law under section 19 (a) of the Environment Act.

The applicants-accused included VCA President, Vice President Prashant Vaidya, Secretary BS Bhatti and Joint Secretary Parimal Vaidya, Treasurer Murali Pantula, 8 Executive Committee Members – Sunil Deoupadhyay, Pramod Kulkarni, Alhad Gokhale, Hemant Gandhi, Dilip Daga, Ashwin Dorairajan, Dilip Parteki and Anupama Bansod, CEO of the VCA Farokh Dastoor and Security-in-charge for the match Anand Deshpande.

The VCA had charged that the offences were registered in haste, in a predetermined manner without any investigation or information and in a malafide manner pursuant to the threat already dished out on January 29 morning, while substantiating its allegation with letters, photographs and past history of matches held at Jamtha stadium. In the very first hearing the High Court had stayed coercive action and had observed that the entire episode appeared to be a fall-out of refusal of VCA office-bearers to meekly accept the exorbitant demand of free passes by police officials.

During last hearing held on February 23, the High Court had asked the Police Department and VCA to refrain from furthering the controversy and asked both the parties to give a quietus. As per understanding reached, the VCA withdrew allegations levelled against top police officials within three days and promised to abide by the AG’s decision. AG Rohit Deo was asked to decide on the submissions made by City Police, and give his “appropriate decision” to the court.

When City Police sought time to consider the AG’s opinion, it infuriated the High Court which reminded them that “No subordinate officer serving under the Government can show disregard to the Advocate General’s well considered opinion in such a fashion. You want to dig out something just to prove your charges. It is highly unbecoming conduct on the part of the Police Department,” the High Court tersely observed.

Apart from AG’s report, the High Court also examined the material placed on record to conclude that no offence as alleged was made out and entire action of police was unsustainable in the eyes of law. Chiding the cops for not honouring their own commitment, the High Court reminded them that police officers had promised to abide by the AG’s decision else VCA would not have withdrawn the allegation.

The court asked the respondent officers as to who was guilty of 417 (cheating) while lashing out at them for slapping offence of cheating against VCA office-bearers. Senior counsel Sunil Manohar, Adv Akshay Naik and Adv Rajendra Daga appeared for the applicants. Advocate General Rohit Deo was present. GP Bharti Dangre represented the respondent police authorities. Advocate Shreerang Bhandarkar represented respondent- Police officers.

We have appointed fine officers here: AG

“State Government has deputed some of the finest officers here,” stated Advocate General Rohit Deo while trying to save the day for Police officers who came under fire during Friday’s hearing.

“The honest officers are extremely touchy about their reputation and integrity and are deeply hurt when allegations are levelled against them,” he stated while also advising media to show some restrain from reporting fireworks and expletives which are exchanged during court proceedings as it often shapes public perception.