Read Judgment: Prashant Singh Rajput vs. The State Of Madhya Pradesh & Anr

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, October 11, 2021: While recording that a sufficient case had been made out for cancelling the anticipatory bail granted by the High Court, the Supreme Court has opined that the order granting anticipatory bail had ignored material aspects, including the nature and gravity of the offence, and the specific allegations against two accused persons namely, Jogendra Singh and Suryabhan Singh. 

Since supplementary challan dated March 8, 2021 indicates that more material had emerged during the course of investigation as against the events portrayed in the FIR registered at the behest of Ujiyar Singh (accused), a Division Bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice B.V. Nagarathna observed that the case portrayed by the appellant could not have been ignored by solely relying on the counter-FIR.

The background of the case was that the appellant (Prashant Singh Rajput) on Sep 29, 2021, was at Negai Tiraha with the deceased (Vikas Singh) who was the appellant’s brother in law and two other individuals, Rajkishore Rajput and Dharmender Patel. In the meanwhile, four accused persons, namely Ujiyar Singh, his two sons Chandrabhan Singh and Suryabhan Singh and his driver Jogendra Singh arrived in a jeep. 

Due to alleged rivalry, Ujiyar Singh and Chandrabhan Singh shot at Vikas Singh, while Jogendra Singh held him, leading to his death while Suryabhan Singh hit the appellant on his head with the butt of his gun, leading to an injury. Upon being brought to a hospital, Vikas Singh was pronounced dead, following which the appellant registered an FIR u/s 302 and 323 of IPC r/w/s 34 of IPC, 1860.

In relation to the same incident, the accused (Ujiyar Singh) also registered an FIR on Sep 30, 2021 u/s 294, 506, 323 and 34 of IPC against the deceased and the appellant. Apprehending arrest, Jogendra Singh filed anticipatory bail application u/s 438 CrPC, 1973 during the investigation of the incident which was however rejected on Oct 8, 2020.

Upon submission of final report u/s 173 CrPC as per which Ujiyar Singh and Chandrabhan Singh were named as accused but Jogendra Singh and Suryabhan Singh were stated to have no role in death since they were in Jabalpur 40 kms away from the spot where the incident occurred, the appellant filed a protest petition. 

The investigation officer (IO) on March 8, 2021 filed a supplementary challan pursuant to directions for further investigation by the Judicial Magistrate First Class, which stated that evidence had emerged showing the involvement of Ujiyar Singh and Chandrabhan Singh in the deceased’s death. 

Hence, the JMFC observed that the IO had conducted an investigation only against Ujiyar Singh and Chandrabhan Singh, and had not properly considered the accusations against Suryabhan Singh and Jogendra Singh. Both of them were thus summoned.

Apprehending arrest, Suryabhan Singh and Jogendra Singh filed an anticipatory bail application before the Trial Court which was rejected and they thereafter approached the High Court, which noted that the investigation report did not reveal that Jogendra was present at the spot of crime.

The Single Judge of the Jabalpur bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court while allowing Jogendra Singh’s anticipatory bail on July 1, 2021, also observed that the the ‘only’ allegation against Suryabhan Singh was that he attacked the appellant, but that only resulted in a simple injury. 

After considering the arguments and evidences, the Apex Court found that the High Court has placed reliance upon the report submitted u/s 173 of the CrPC on Dec 15, 2020 to hold that Jogendra Singh and Suryabhan Singh were not present when the incident occurred.

However, the High Court has not addressed the clear deficiencies in the course of the investigation which have been highlighted in the order of the JMFC dated Feb 13, 2021 and the trial Court’s order dated March 24, 2021, added the Court. 

The Division Bench of the Top Court highlighted various deficiencies on the part of High Court as to: 

(i) the failure to notice eye- witness statements; 

(ii) reliance on CCTV footage for the period of time after incident had occurred, ignoring prior or contemporaneous footage; 

(iii) not collecting CCTV footage between Jabalpur and the scene of offence; 

(iv) relying on CDRs without determining if Jogendra Singh and Suryabhan Singh had actually used the number; and 

(v) not conducting any finger print analysis. 

At the present stage, the FIR and both the appellant’s statements u/s 161 and 164 are consistent in as much as that Suryabhan Singh did hit him in his head with the butt of the gun, added the Bench. 

The Apex Court therefore held that the material at this stage cannot be examined with a fine toothcomb in the manner of a criminal trial. 

What needs to be determined is whether the parameters for the grant of anticipatory bail were correctly formulated and applied by the Single Judge, added the Court. 

Therefore, the Apex Court set aside the judgments passed by the Single Judge of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh granting anticipatory bail to Jogendra Singh and Suryabhan Singh. 

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