The legal trail

Published : Sep 10, 2004 00:00 IST

IMMEDIATELY after the Idgah Maidan disturbances on August 14, 15 and 16, 1994, eleven cases were registered in the jurisdiction of three police stations in Hubli. (The M. Veerappa Moily government appointed a Commission of Inquiry under Justice Rajashekhara Murthy, which submitted its report during J.H. Patel's chief ministership.) Eleven charge sheets were filed in the courts concerned in 1995. It was in the Judicial Magistrate First Class 2nd Court that the charge-sheet (563/95) involving Uma Bharati and 21 other accused was filed. They were charged under 14 Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 307 (attempt to murder) and 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house and so on), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapons), 109 (abetment of crime), 224 (resistance to lawful apprehension), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 353 (using criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty). The punishment ranges from one month (341) to 10 years (307) in prison.

It was on January 23, 2002 that the Additional Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary to the Home Department issued directions to all the Assistant Public Prosecutors concerned to file withdrawal applications and to ensure that all cased registered on August 14, 15 and 16, 1994, are withdrawn. While the Judicial Magistrate permitted 10 cases to be withdrawn, in the case of 563/95 he gave an order on July 11, 2002, rejecting the application because Section 307 can be tried only by a Sessions Court.

In the two years between 2002 and 2004, the Judicial Magistrate's Court issued several summons, and subsequently arrest warrants, to Uma Bharati and others through the jurisdictional police to appear before the court. She ignored them all. In early May another arrest warrant was issued. In an application filed on her behalf, her lawyers V.G. Patil and Manoj Hangal and the Deputy Advocate-General of Madhya Pradesh, prayed that the warrant be recalled, on the condition that she would appear on the next date of hearing. The warrant was withdrawn in the second week of May. When she did not appear as promised on the next date of hearing, another warrant - the 19th of the series - was issued on August 3, 2004, together with a proclamation for the attachment of her property. This warrant was to be served to her through the Director-General of Police, Karnataka. Meanwhile, her lawyers also filed a criminal revision petition (No.76/2004) on May 31 before the First Additional District and Sessions Court to set aside the July 11, 2002, order of rejection by the Judicial Magistrate.

At this stage the Karnataka government also decided to press for the withdrawal of the case. In a direction to the Public Prosecutor, Hubli, on June 6 this year, the Director of Prosecutions issued instructions to the Public Prosecutor to file a revision petition before the Sessions Judge immediately to prefer a revision against the July 11, 2002, order of the Judicial Magistrate First Class 2nd Court. In case of delay the Public Prosecutor was to file an affidavit for condonation of the delay. Accordingly, the Public Prosecutor filed a criminal revision petition (No.88/2004) on June 21, 2004, together with an affidavit for condonation of the delay. The prayer made was to set aside the order of rejection dated July 11, 2002, and the most important ground cited argued: "In the public interest it is impossible for the prosecution to prove the case against her because 5-6,000 party workers had formed an unlawful assembly and it was committed," the reference being to offences committed under Sections 307 and 463 of the IPC. The governments volte-face in August resulted in the August 18 application before the same court by the Public Prosecutor stating that its revision petition (No. 88/2004) be disposed of and not pressed.

In a much-awaited order on August 23, the Additional District and Sessions Court Judge dismissed the revision petition (No.76/2004) filed by Uma Bharati's lawyers on May 31. The revision petition (No. 88/2004) filed by the prosecution on June 21, 2004, was also dismissed as "not pressed". The application filed on August 18 by the Public Prosecutor seeking the withdrawal of its revision petition was also dismissed. All three were dismissed on the technical ground of being time-barred. The Judge, however, said that the Judicial Magistrates First Class 2nd Court could be approached again under Section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for the withdrawal of the case 563/95 against Uma Bharati and others. Since there was no plea for withdrawal of the arrest warrant, the warrant stands.

With this order the legal position on the Hubli events goes right back to where it stood on July 11, 2002. The case 563/95 against Uma Bharati and 21 others stands.

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