23 September 2023

Ahmedabad, Gujarat- In a recent development, the Gujarat High Court has refused bail to a woman advocate who is facing charges of conspiracy and abetment in connection with the alleged repeated sexual assault and rape of a minor girl.

Justice Hasmukh D. Suthar presiding over the case noted that there exists prima facie evidence suggesting the active involvement of the accused woman advocate in the commission of the heinous crime. Her actions were believed to have shielded the offender and hindered the ongoing investigation, thereby warranting her custodial interrogation.

Emphasizing that the legal profession should not be exploited as a shield for criminal activities, and that no one should be allowed to cloak their illegal deeds under the pretext of a noble profession, the bench firmly declined to grant bail to the woman advocate.

Overview of the Case

The accused woman was named in a complaint that alleged various offenses under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including Sections 376(2)(N), 354(D), 120(B), and 493, in addition to Sections 8 and 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, and Section 66€ of the Information Technology (IT) Act. These charges stemmed from her alleged active participation in a case where a minor girl was reportedly subjected to repeated sexual abuse and coerced into changing her religion.

It was further alleged that the accused, in her capacity as an advocate, played an instrumental role in facilitating the crimes. This included helping the primary accused marry the victim and attempting to exonerate him from any wrongdoing.

Moreover, she was accused of advising the primary accused, who belonged to the Muslim community, to falsely register a marriage with another individual from a different religious background. Subsequently, she actively assisted the primary accused and assured him of obtaining a divorce. Allegedly, she also forged fraudulent marriage documents, including affidavits, which were notarized to falsely demonstrate the innocence of the primary accused.

Additionally, when the victim’s parents filed a complaint with the police, the accused woman allegedly pressured the victim to distance herself from her parents and adopt a hostile stance against them while coaching the victim.

In light of these allegations, an FIR was filed against the woman advocate on charges of abetment and conspiracy. She then approached the High Court seeking anticipatory bail, arguing that she had only provided professional advice to the complainant regarding the registration of her marriage.

It was contended that the accusations were limited to abetment and facilitating the complainant’s marriage to the primary accused, which should not constitute a criminal offense and at most could be considered a minor lapse in her professional duty.

High Court’s Findings

After hearing arguments from both sides and examining the available evidence, the High Court concluded that there was prima facie evidence to suggest that the accused woman actively participated in the crime, deviating significantly from her professional duties. The Court noted that her actions appeared to have been aimed at shielding the primary accused and obstructing the investigation.

Regarding the charges of abetment and conspiracy, the Court found evidence in the investigation papers that suggested the accused woman maintained frequent contact with both the primary accused and another accomplice.

The Court observed, 

The present applicant was in constant contact with co-accused for 10 times and with another accused No.2 for 70 times, which speaks volumes about her active role and participation which is far-fetched from her rendering professional services and therefore, custodial interrogation is required as the offense is against a minor girl.

Given these observations, the Court declined to grant anticipatory bail to the accused woman, citing the objectives of the POCSO Act, the nature of the allegations, and her prima facie involvement in the case. Consequently, her plea for anticipatory bail was dismissed.

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