The Bombay High Court recently overturned a proclamation order against Police Naik Deepak Sitaram Modhe, accused of rape and intimidation towards a fellow female Police Naik. Justice Sarang V Kotwal, presiding over the case of Deepak Sitaram Modhe v. State of Maharashtra, highlighted the significance of allowing the accused the mandatory 30-day period to appear, as per Section 82 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The applicant, Deepak Sitaram Modhe, challenged a proclamation order dated November 29, 2023, issued by JMFC, Pune, under Section 82 of the CrPC. The order aimed at summoning Modhe, the original accused in a case registered at Khadak police station, Pune.

The complainant, a female Police Naik, lodged a case against Modhe, alleging persistent unwanted marriage proposals, followed by a purported sexual assault during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown. Modhe allegedly coerced her into divorcing her husband, engaged in theft from her residence, and made threats of physical harm and death while maintaining control over explicit material obtained through coercion.

Charges against Modhe included sections 307, 376(2)(n), 377, 392, 506(2), 504, and 323 of the IPC, alongside sections 3 and 25 of the Arms Act and section 37 read with section 135 of the Maharashtra Police Act. Despite his rejected anticipatory bail applications, a non-bailable warrant was issued against him on November 24, 2023.

Advocate Aashish Satpute, representing Modhe, contested the proclamation order, highlighting that the directed appearance date (December 04, 2023) fell short of the mandatory 30-day period as stipulated by Section 82 of the CrPC. Citing three prior Bombay High Court orders supporting this interpretation, Satpute argued for adherence to the statutory timeline.

Additional Public Prosecutor Sangita Shinde acknowledged the validity of the cited orders and proposed affording the investigating agency the opportunity to pursue the remedy afresh if the current order was set aside.

Justice Kotwal noted the discrepancy between the issuance of the arrest warrant on November 24, 2023, and the subsequent proclamation order on November 29, 2023, directing Modhe’s appearance merely four days later. Section 82(1) of the CrPC explicitly mandates a period not less than 30 days for the accused to appear following the proclamation’s publication.
Sections 307, 376(2)(n), 377, 392, 506(2), 504, and 323 of the IPC:
1. Section 307 – Attempt to Murder: This section deals with attempts to commit murder, where an individual tries to cause death to another person. It includes cases where there is a clear intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm to someone. Punishment for this offense can range from imprisonment to life imprisonment or even the death penalty in extreme cases.

2. Section 376(2)(n) – Punishment for Rape: This section specifically addresses cases of rape where the offender, being in a position of authority or control over the victim, commits sexual assault. The punishment under this section is severe, and it considers various circumstances of the offense, including the age of the victim and the relationship between the accused and the victim.

3. Section 377 – Unnatural Offences: Section 377 criminalizes sexual activities “against the order of nature.” Historically, this section was used to criminalize consensual homosexual activities. However, recent legal developments have led to a more nuanced understanding and subsequent decriminalization of consensual same-sex relationships in India.

4. Section 392 – Robbery: This section deals with instances where theft is committed using force or the threat of force. It involves the act of taking someone’s property dishonestly with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it.

5. Section 506(2) – Criminal Intimidation: This section addresses the offense of criminal intimidation, where someone threatens another person to cause them alarm or fear for their safety or the safety of their loved ones. The intimidation could be to compel someone to do an act against their will or to deter them from doing something they have a right to do.

6. Section 504 – Intentional Insult with Intent to Provoke Breach of the Peace: This section deals with intentionally insulting or provoking someone with the intention of disturbing public peace. It focuses on acts meant to incite anger or disrupt public order.

7. Section 323 – Voluntarily Causing Hurt: This section covers situations where an individual voluntarily causes hurt or injury to another person. The act may not be severe, but it constitutes an offense if it is done deliberately.

In light of this statutory provision, the court annulled the impugned order, underscoring the need to initiate a fresh process for issuing a proclamation that adheres to the mandated timeframe. Furthermore, the court granted the investigating agency the liberty to take appropriate lawful steps to secure Modhe’s presence.

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