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Court rejects Pranjit bail plea

- Congress leader, accused of raping 23-year-old, still absconding

Pranjit Choudhury at an election rally. File picture

Guwahati, April 28: Gauhati High Court today rejected the anticipatory bail application of Congress leader Pranjit Choudhury, who was accused of rape by a 23-year-old.

Choudhury, who contested the recent Assembly polls from Kamalpur constituency, has been absconding ever since the victim went public with her allegation and filed an FIR against him at Panbazar police station on April 13.

"Having heard the counsels for both the parties and having considered all the materials placed before this court, including the case diary, and having considered the nature and gravity of the accusation, I am not inclined at this stage to extend the privilege of Section 438 CrPC to the petitioner and as such the prayer stands rejected," Justice Paran Kumar Phukan said in his today's order.

Section 438 of the CrPC deals with anticipatory bail. Choudhury had filed the petition seeking anticipatory bail in connection with Panbazar police station case number 135/2016 registered under Sections 376 (rape), 420 (cheating) and 313 (causing miscarriage without the woman's consent) of the IPC.

His petition first came up for hearing on April 20 but the high court declined to grant him relief without perusing the case diary.

According to the victim, she had an affair with Choudhury, who established sexual relationship with her after promising marriage and asked her to wait till the elections were over. She alleged that after the elections when she approached him, he assured that he would marry her and thereafter stopped communicating with her.

Choudhury's lawyer A. K. Bhattacharyya argued in the court that even if the accusations made in the FIR are taken to be true, no offence under Section 376 or 420 of IPC has been made out against the petitioner. Bhattacharyya submitted that in the FIR the complainant had admitted to having a love affair with the accused and if at all there was sexual relationship between the two, it was with her consent and no criminal liability could be attributed to the accused. He further stated that there is no accusation in the FIR that the accused got her pregnancy terminated.

"The accused contested the Assembly elections and he is a respectable person and his arrest would expose him to ignominy, humiliation and disgrace in the eyes of public and his political career is likely to be doomed. His family life would also be ruined if he is arrested in this case on the basis of wild allegations brought against him by the complainant," Bhattacharyya told the court. He also pointed out that she (the victim) was an adult capable of giving consent and the act of the accused if taken to be true would not amount to rape within a meaning of Section 375 of the IPC.

Opposing the bail petition, additional public prosecutor B.S. Sinha said the victim's consent was obtained by the accused with the promise of marriage and she then surrendered to the lust of the accused. Sinha also said if the accused is granted pre-arrest bail, he being an influential person is likely to hamper the investigation and may try to win over the witnesses. "The case diary reveals sufficient incriminating materials against the accused, which clearly shows that her consent was obtained under misconception of fact. Granting bail to the accused in such a case is likely to convey a wrong message to society, which could have far-reaching consequences," Sinha said.

The high court was of the view that there is nothing in the case diary to show that the FIR has been filed with the object of injuring or humiliating the accused by having him arrested.

"Despite issuance of notice under Section 41A of the CrPC by the investigating officer he has not appeared before him. At this stage is cannot be said it was a case of consensual sex," Justice Phukan said.


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