New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered immediate release of two social workers arrested and remanded to judicial custody for providing support to a gang-rape victim on the orders of the Araria district court in Bihar.
Tanmay Nivedita and Kalyani Badola, both members of an NGO called Jagran Shakti Sangathan, said in their plea, “As the state’s judicial machinery has been seriously impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the petitioners’ right to access judicial remedies as per the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure stands suspended infinitum. The social workers were sent to judicial custody on July 10 for their alleged misdemeanor while assisting and supporting the victim in court.”
A top court bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari has issued a notice to the Bihar government, directing the immediate release of the social workers on a personal bond of Rs 10,000.
“The order by which the petitioners were sent to custody was totally impermissible,” noted the top court.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, representing the social workers, contended before the bench that the plea was filed under extraordinary circumstances due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation.
The petitioners contended that they were sent to custody for providing support to a gang-rape victim. “The gang-rape survivor in her anguished state had expressed uncertainty and anxiety which was misunderstood by the judicial magistrate and he expressed anger and took offence at the victim and the petitioners/support persons during the proceedings under Section 164 of the CrPC,” said the plea.
The plea added, “The petitioners (social workers) along with the survivor had sought bail from the CJM (Chief Judicial Magistrate), Araria, who vide order dated July 17 granted bail to the survivor but denied bail to the petitioners. The order of the CJM is unsustainable in law as it is contrary to the settled bail jurisprudence as laid down in a catena of judgments of this court.”
The petitioners contended that the FIR registered in Araria was not maintainable in law as there was a statutory bar against the police investigating criminal contempt of court.
“The inclusion of provisions from the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 in the FIR reveals the non-application of mind and arbitrary exercise of authority which unfortunately is writ large over the entire proceedings against the petitioners,” the plea added.