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Don't want to encourage politicians to settle cases against them after conviction Bombay HC

Bombay HC| Sameera Siddiqui | Social Thikana

The politician-applicants, who were convicted for assaulting a public servant, had sought quashing of criminal proceedings on the ground that the victim and the appellants had settled the dispute.

Pic Credit ~ Gayatri Kasibhatta

A plea filed by two politician-applicants seeking quashing of a conviction order on the ground that they had settled the dispute with the victim-complainant, was dismissed by the Aurangabad Bench of Bombay High Court (Madhav Sathe & Anr. v. State of Maharashtra & Anr.)

The applicants - Madhav Sathe and Shivaji Sonkamble - were convicted under Sections 332 and 353 of the Indian Penal for assaulting and obstructing duty of a public servant (the complainant) and were sentenced to 6 months of rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs. 2000 by a Magistrate Court in Mukhed, Maharashtra.

While the appeal challenging the conviction was pending before the Sessions Court, they filed an application seeking acquittal on the ground that the applicants had arrived at an amicable settlement with the complainant. Such an application was rejected by the Sessions Judge, on the ground that the offence under Section 332 was non-compoundable.

After the rejection by the Sessions Judge, the applicants approached the Aurangabad Bench with an application under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for quashing of criminal proceeding post conviction for non-compoundable offence citing settlement with the informant-complainant. Dismissing the plea, a Bench of Justices VK Jadhav and SG Dige held that they were "not inclined to set up an altogether new trend encouraging the politicians, as in the present case, to settle their dispute post conviction to achieve better future political prospects".

Advocate PR Katneshwarkar, appearing for the applicants, argued that quashing of the offence or criminal proceeding on the ground of settlement between an offender and a victim is not the same thing as compounding an offence.

He submitted that the High Court was required to form an opinion based on the material before it on whether the ends of justice would justify such exercise of power although the ultimate consequence may be acquittal or dismissal of indictment.The complainant also filed an affidavit stating that an amicable settlement had been arrived to maintain cordial relations and since the applicants are politicians having good future in politics.

The Assistant Public Prosecutor MM Nerlikar opposed the application stating the incident of assault occurred after the complainant had not received the phone call from the applicants.Nerlikar pointed out to the conviction order which recorded that the "conduct of the accused is unwarranted and if dealt with soft hands, a very bad message will go to the society".

After pursuing the evidence and the affidavit of the complainant clarifying that he is not interested in their conviction, the Court opined that the applicants however, did not show repentance on their part or assurance that such conduct will not be repeated in the future.The Court observed a growing tendency of assaulting public servants discharging their official duties under various pretext - like assault on doctors, hospital staff, RTO officials by errant drivers, staff of public transport and police staff on COVID duty. "This tendency needs to be discouraged by taking stringent view in such matters," the Bench remarked. The Court held that the settlement arrived between the parties was not enough to secure the ends of justice in the present case.However, it left it to the Sessions Court to consider the settlement arrived at between the parties would be a mitigating circumstance to reduce the sentence awarded to the applicants.

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