Bombay HC castigates cops, judicial officers in POCSO case, lays down new probe norms

In his affidavit of March 30, Pankaj Deshmukh, Superintendent of Police, Pune rural, enumerated various steps taken to ensure proper assistance to the court for disposal of bail applications were set out.

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Mumbai: Coming down heavily on the Pune rural police and its own judicial officers in a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) case involving a 10-year-old minor girl, the Bombay High Court bench of justice Madhav Jamdar while castigating the Pune rural police laid down new conduct and probe norms. Justice Jamdar also pulled up the judicial officers for their alleged lackadaisical approach to the case and even ordered appointing a new judicial officer to represent the Respondent (the State/complainant).

Delivering his judgment in the Ajay Kisan Shelke vs The State of Maharashtra and Another’s came down heavily on Pune rural police head constable, Sudhir Eknath Holkar for coming in a private car from Pune to attend the proceedings of the case in the court. Noting that the head constables conduct was suspicious, justice Jamdar argued that even the Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) also submitted that Holkar was not cooperating and deliberately giving false answers.

Taking serious note of the conduct of Holkar, justice Jamdar directed Pankaj Deshmukh, Superintendent of Police, Pune rural and Ramesh Chopade, Additional Superintendent of Police, to conduct an inquiry into the conduct of the head constable within two weeks. Accordingly, Pankaj Deshmukh, Superintendent of Police, in his affidavit informed the court that Holkar has been suspended with effect from March 30 last month.

Justice Jamdar added that the parents of the victim girl were pressurized and hence they acted in a certain manner which is a very serious matter. In his judgement the judge further observed that when he did try to enquire from the respondent and her husband in the open court, he found them to be under tremendous pressure.

The bench also passed severe strictures against Bhausaheb Kailas Dhole, Deputy Superintendent of Police, for conducting the inquiry and recording the statements of the parents stating that there was no pressure on them and actions taken by them are voluntary, despite the fact that the parents had informed the court that they were being pressurized. Castigating the police further, justice Jamdar observed that the police have attempted to interfere with the administration of justice.

Justice Jamdar pulled up Lalasaheb Bandal, learned Advocate who represented the parents, noted that the learned Advocate had acted in total breach of his duty. He added that Bandal made submissions without verifying the facts that the FIR was lodged due to a civil dispute. The learned Advocate had stated that he had made the submissions without reading the papers of the Bail Application and did not have the papers of the Bail Application.

In his affidavit of March 30, Pankaj Deshmukh, Superintendent of Police, Pune rural, enumerated various steps taken to ensure proper assistance to the court for disposal of bail applications were set out.

The relevant measures include – police personnel attending the High Court proceedings shall be in police uniform. In case of the absence of the concerned Investigating Officer (IO) due to various reasons, then the officer attending the court proceedings shall study the matter and take specific instructions from the concerned IO and convey the same to the concerned Public Prosecutor, the police officer shall maintain the decorum of the court, that an officer not below the rank of Police Sub Inspector shall be present before the High Court.

Any adverse opinion related to the case expressed by the court in the concerned case shall be conveyed to the senior police officer. The concerned police personnel shall keep track of the matter and follow up the due dates in the case while accessing the High Court website. Intentional failure to follow the abovesaid instructions strict departmental action will be taken against the concerned police personnel. An official vehicle shall be stationed at the police control room at Pune Rural and that no officer shall commute to the High Court using private vehicle.

Justice Jamdar in his earlier order of March 18 had clarified that the Applicant (Ajay Kisan Shelke) is free to engage an Advocate of his choice. Accordingly, the court in its April 8 order appointed Nitin Sejpal to assist the court and also appointed Vilasini Balasubramanian as the learned counsel to represent the Respondent 2 (Lalasaheb Bandal).

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