Read Judgment: SHRADDHA GUPTA Vs. STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH & ANR 

Mansimran Kaur

New Delhi, April 27, 2022: Observing that commission of even a single offence by a member of the gang is sufficient to prosecute him/her under the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986, the Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal of the appellant-accused and upheld the impugned judgment of the Allahabad High Court whereby the Court  refused  to quash the proceedings under Section 482 of  Cr.P.C. 

A Division Bench comprising of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathana while upholding the impugned judgment of the High Court observed that if an accused being a member of the gang is arraigned even in a single offence/ FIR/ charge sheet for commission of anti-social activities, then he can be prosecuted under the Gangsters Act, 1986. 

The present appeals were preferred by the appellant in pursuance of the impugned order dated September 27, 2019 passed by the Allahabad High Court and the subsequent order dated November 10, 2020 passed in Criminal Review Miscellaneous Application. The appellant was arraigned under Section 2/3 of the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti- Social Activities Act, 1986. 

Factual background of the case was that a complaint was instituted by the fourth respondent-the original claimant stating that her sister and the family member had enmity with the accused persons. It was alleged that the accused persons killed her sister by deliberately causing an accident while she was returning from the Court one day. It was further alleged that the accused were eight in number and they followed the sister of the complainant by a car and collided the car with her scooty. Due to the accident, the victim sustained severe injuries and lost her life. It was also alleged by the complainant that she suspected the involvement of former BJP MLA Yongendra Sagar in the entire conspiracy.  On the basis of this report, a case under Section 147, 304, 504, 323, 506, 120-B IPC was registered against the six accused persons.

Thereafter, on May 27, 2017 a case under Section 2/3 of the Gangsters Act, 1986 was registered against the eight accused persons. In pursuance of the same charge sheet was filed on May 26, 2018 and cognizance of the same was taken by the Judge under the Gangsters Act. 

Thereafter, during investigation, it was  revealed that the appellant – Shraddha Gupta, her husband – Sharvan Gupta and Kamlesh Sharma were also involved in the offence pertaining to the conspiracy of murder of deceased Sadhna Sharma. Therefore, a supplementary charge sheet was also filed against the aforesaid three accused persons. 

The appellant filed the Criminal Miscellaneous Writ Petition before the High Court under Section 482 Cr.P.C.  The High Court however, by its impugned order dismissed the writ petition and refused to quash the proceedings under Section 2/3 of the Gangsters Act. A review application was also filed and the same was also dismissed. It was these impugned orders that were assailed by the appellant by way of present appeals. 

The Counsel for the respondents – State stressed on several decisions of the High Court wherein High Court considered a similar issue and was of the opinion that considering the provisions of the Gangster Act, specifically Section 2 (b) and 2 (c) even in case of a single FIR/ charge sheet for the anti- social activities mentioned in Section 2 (b) of the Gangsters Act, an accused can be prosecuted under the Gangsters Act. 

The question of law before the Apex Court was whether a person against whom a single FIR/ charge sheet is filed can be prosecuted under Section 2 (b) of the Gangsters Act, 1986.  

After going through the relevance Sections of the Act, the Court concluded that provisions  of the Act vividly reflect that offences falling under the Gangers Act shall be given preference and should be tried efficiently by Special Courts in order to not vitiate the objective and purpose of the enactment of the Gangsters Act. 

The Court construed that commission of even a single crime committed by a Gang member is sufficient to prosecute the member of the Act under the Gangsters Act. It was noted that the definition clause does not mandate the commission of plural offences before the provisions of the Gangsters Act is invoked.

It was further submitted that a group may act collectively or a single person of the Gang might commit the offence and disrupt  the public order by involving in anti-social activities mentioned under Section 2 (b) of the Gangsters Act.  

Therefore in light of the provisions mentioned in the Gangsters Act, it was construed that even in case of a single offence/ FIR / charge sheet if it comes to surface that the accused was the member of a Gang had indulged in anti- social activities mentioned under Section 2 (b) of the Gangsters Act, he/ she can be prosecuted under the said Act and can be termed as Gangster under Section 2 (c) of the Act. 

In the instant, the Court therefore noted that the main accused, a gang leader conspired with other co-accused including the appellant herein to commit the murder of the deceased for a pecuniary benefit as there was a dispute going on between the family members. Therefore, in the facts and circumstances of the case, it couldnot be said that no prosecution could have been initiated against the appellant-accused for the offences under Sections 2/3 of the Gangsters Act, 1986.

Thus, the Bench held that the High was right in its approach to quash the criminal proceedings against the appellant- accused under Section 2/3 of the Gangers Act, by exercising its inherent power under Section 482 of Cr.P.C.  Accordingly, the present appeals were dismissed. 

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