Assistant Conservator of Forests Accused of Abetting a Female Subordinate Officer in Committing Suicide Granted Bail by the Nagpur Bench

Report by YASHVARDHAN SHARMA

An Assistant Conservator of Forests accused of abetting a female subordinate officer in committing suicide was granted bail by the Nagpur Bench. While granting bail to an applicant accused of abetting the death of a forest officer, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court stated that bail cannot be denied to quell society’s collective fury.

PETITIONER’S CONTENTION

  • Mrs. ‘D’ (Deepali Chavan ) penned three suicide notes. The first note is a letter addressed to Mr. Reddy the then Additional Chief Conservator of Forest, Melghat Tiger Project, Amravati, who is also arraigned as accused. The succeeding note is a letter addressed by Mrs. ‘D’ to her mother and the third note is a letter addressed by Mrs. ‘D’ to her husband.
  • The deceased’s husband filed a report with Police Station Dharni, District Amravati, under Crime 211/2021, for offences punishable under Sections 306, 312, 504, 506 of the Indian Penal Code and the applicant, who was direct superior at that time of Mrs. ‘D’s, and who is a member of the Indian Forest Service, was arrested on 27.03.2021.
  • The applicant attempted to persuade the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Achalpur to grant bail, but in vain.
  • Opposing Shivkumar’s bail application, district government pleader (DGP) Parikshit Ganorkar said There are accusations made against the defendants that led to Chavan’s suicide. There is prima facie evidence against the accused and He could have obstructed investigations and tamper with prosecution witnesses because he held a top position.
  • Ganorkar testified in court that Shivkumar attempted to run and was apprehended dramatically at Nagpur train station. If he gets released on bail, He may attempt to flee justice as well and pleaded for discharge of his bail application.
  • From the case diary and explicit, it is clear that Shivkumar had been tormenting Chavan for over a year. In March 2020, He even threatened to implicate Deepali in a case of atrocities and put her behind the bar.
  • “The issues that have been raised when the accused forced her to perform field duties while pregnant, resulting in her abortion. The applicant used to call her at odd hours at night and disgustingly speak to her. The accused sought to take advantage of her loneliness, and when she refused, he used to punish her, according to the suicide note,” the court said.

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Deepali Chavan penned three suicide notes. The first note is to Mr. Reddy the then Additional Chief Conservator of Forests. Second note to her mother and the third note to her husband.
  • Under Crime 211/2021, for offences punishable under Sections 306, 312, 504, 506 of the Indian Penal Code and the applicant, was arrested on 27.03.2021.
  • The accused argued that he had no criminal antecedent, was a law-abiding citizen, and was working for the betterment of the forest. His deeds were a part of his official responsibilities.
  • The three letters’ contents used as evidence and the accusations contained therein are refuted by additional evidence gathered during the investigation.
  • The application is allowed.

RESPONDENT’S CONTENTION

  • Prashant Deshpande, his lawyer, filed a bail application on his behalf that the accused argued that he had no criminal antecedent, was a law-abiding citizen, and was working for the betterment of the forest. He claimed in his application that Chavan’s allegations in her suicide note were ambiguous and did not meet the threshold of abetment. His deeds were a part of his official responsibilities. Prima facie, the allegation that the applicant, As Assistant Conservator of Forests, ordered the deceased to go on a rough terrain trek while she was pregnant, By any stretch of the imagination, this implies a responsible intent to cause a miscarriage.
  • The contents of the letters, which the prosecution claims were written by Mrs. ‘D’ are taken at face value, even a prima facie inference of suicidal abetment cannot be drawn.
  • Even if it is assumed arguendo, that the three letters’ contents will be used as evidence, The accusations contained therein are refuted by additional evidence gathered during the investigation.

BOMBAY HIGH COURT

  • Despite this, the court noted that if taken at face value, the three letters on which the prosecution is relying do make out a prima facie case of abetment, considering that the applicant is suspended and would not be in a position to influence the witnesses, that the applicant is not a flight risk and that bail cannot be denied as a pre-trial punishment, I’m inclined to believe that a case has been established for granting bail.
  • The application is allowed.
  • The applicant is released on bail on the condition that he deposit a personal bond of Rs.1,00,000/- (One Lakh only) with two solvent sureties of like amount. The applicant shall not, directly or indirectly, make any attempt to contact much less influence, any witness cited in the charge-sheet nor shall the applicant make any attempt but otherwise influence the course of the trial.
  • The applicant shall attend every date of hearing scrupulously and shall report at the Sadar Police Station, Nagpur on the second and fourth Saturday of every month. The applicant shall, within 72 hours of release, he should provide his current address and phone numbers to the Investigating Officer, and keep the Investigating Officer informed of any changes. The applicant must hand over his passport to the Investigating Officer if he has any. Without the authorization of the jurisdictional court, the applicant could not leave the country.

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