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Supreme Court grants septuagenarian interim protection from arrest in illegal colonization case in MP

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The Supreme Court has granted interim protection from arrest to a septuagenarian accused in an FIR registered for offences punishable for “illegal colonization” under the Madhya Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1961.

While appreciating the counsel for the petitioner, the two-judge bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh has said prima facie, he rightly pointed out that the impugned order passed by High Court of Madhya Pradesh, rejecting the anticipatory bail application of the petitioner is in the teeth of the mandate of this Court in Satender Kumar Antil v. Central Bureau of Investigation & Anr. (2021) 10 SCC 773 and Siddharth v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr. (2022) 1 SCC 676.

The Court has issued notice and noted in the meantime, he shall not be arrested but ensure his presence before the court in accordance with law and cooperate with any further investigation, if so called upon to do so by the Investigating Officer. The matter is tagged with SLP Crl 1912/2022.

The petitioner, who is one of the owners of land situated in the territorial limits of Municipality Nagda, sold small pieces of land by dividing them into plots unauthorizedly to other persons. It was further alleged that the petitioner have not obtained requisite permission for development of colony thereby violating the rules laid down for all such work. Accordingly, the complainant has lodged report against the petitioner. Thereafter, the petitioner filed for anticipatory bail in the High Court in connection with Crime No.07/2021, registered at Police Station Nagda, District Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, for offences punishable under Section 339-C of the Municipalities Act. The Section reads: 339-C. Punishment for illegal colonization.—

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(1) A colonizer, who, in contravention of the provisions of Section 172 of Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code, 1959 ( No. 20 of 1959) and the rules made thereunder, diverts the land or part thereof, commits an offence of illegal diversion of land.

(2) A colonizer who diverts his lands into plots or the land of any other person with the object of establishing a colony in branch of the requirements contemplated in this Act or the rules made in this behalf, commits an offence of illegal colonization.

(3) Whoever commits or abets the commission of an offence of illegal diversion or illegal colonization shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than three years and not more than seven years or with minimum fine of ten thousand rupees or with both. Such offence shall be a cognizable offence.

(4) Whoever constructs a building in an area of illegal diversion or illegal colonization commits an offence of illegal construction.

(5) Whoever commits an offence of illegal construction shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than three years and not more than seven years or with minimum fine of ten thousand rupees or with both. Such offence shall be a cognizable offence.

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It was contended before the High Court by learned counsel for the petitioner that they have not developed any colony for which statutory permissions were required. They even appeared before the Investigating Officer after receiving notice and fully cooperated with the investigation. Allegations are based on documentary evidence which is already in possession of the police. They are not required for custodial interrogation. They are old persons aged about 72 and 77 years respectively & have been falsely been implicated in the matter. Even otherwise, chargesheet has been filed before the Court of JMFC, Nagda Distt. Ujjain against them from where arrest warrant has been issued against the petitioner. Trial will take time to conclude.

The State opposed the said application before High Court contending that petitioner remained absent before the Court of JMFC, Nagda on the date when chargesheet was filed against him & other accused.

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The High Court rejected the bail application, however, looking at the old age of the petitioner and also the fact that offences alleged against them are not punishable for more than seven years of imprisonment and keeping in view the law laid down by Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Arnesh Kumar’s case [(2014) 8 SCC 273], it was directed that if petitioner surrendered before the concerned court and they want to file for regular bail, then, their application shall be considered as expeditiously as possible, preferably on the same day in light of Arnesh Kumar’s case.

Case Name- Nemichand Vs The State of Madhya Pradesh

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