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Mere Presence at Demonstration Sport Wouldn’t Invite Criminal Action: HP High Court Quashes FIR Against Persons Protesting at National Highway

Mere Presence at Demonstration Sport Wouldn’t Invite Criminal Action: HP High Court Quashes FIR Against Persons Protesting at National Highway

The Himachal Pradesh High Court on May 11th 2021 quashed the FIR registered against two persons for being members of an unlawful assembly which allegedly blocked National Highway Shimla and caused wrongful restraint.

A single judge bench chaired by justice Anoop Chitkara quashed the FIR with the opinion that this case is one of the exceptional cases where the court should exercise its inherent jurisdiction under section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code 1973.

The court opined that all roads, be it expressways, village roads or colony roads are life lines. Under any pretext howsoever justifiable it might be, the blocking of any highway, road, street or path can neither be condoned nor forgiven or approved, however, mere presence at the spot in the demonstration would not invite criminal acts in the facts and nature of allegations made in the present a FIR.

On May 28th, 2018 an FIR was registered by the police against 11 persons including the two petitioners, after receiving information that some people were protesting at the National Highway on not getting the water supply for days. 

As reported by the police, the mob had allegedly blocked the highway which was however opened after the ADM reached the spot and was successful in persuading the protesters, and an FIR was registered under section 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and section 143 (punishment for being a member of an unlawful assembly) of The Indian Penal Code 1860.

The petitioners then approached the High Court seeking for the quash of the FIR on the ground that they were not present at the spot and were implicated in the case without any evidence of identification.

It was also submitted to the court that even if the allegations of the FIR in investigation are excepted hypothetically, they will fail to make a prima facie case against them as there is a lack of evidence to show that the road was blocked by them.

To this, the prosecution had submitted that even if the petitioners did not participate in the blockade, they did not intervene and stopped their neighbours from blocking the road.

Observing that the investigation in the matter was complete and the report under section 173(2) of Criminal Procedure Code 1973, had also been filed in the matter the court observed that “even if this court presumes the petitioner’s presence at this spot, it would still not lead to an automatic inference of their participation in blocking the road.”

The court also opined that “the best evidence in this situation is videography, and since almost every phone has a camera and inbuilt video recording features, the absence of videography would cast doubt about the credibility and genuineness of the investigation”

Moreover, the single bench allowed the writ petition and quashed the FIR registered against the petitioners and opined that if the proceedings are allowed to be continued, it shall amount to miscarriage of justice

The court continued and stated that the state has failed to produce a single evidence to prove that the participation of the petitioners in the blocking of the road. Thus, even if this court believes all the allegations in a FIR as truthful, still there is no allegation against the petitioners of participating in any criminal activity. 

Title, Miss Anjali Soni Verma and another vs State of Himachal Pradesh and others. (Cr.MMO No. 203 of 2021).

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