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Punjab and Haryana HC grants interim bail to Yuvraj Singh if he’s arrested in caste remark case

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The Punjab & Haryana High Court has recently directed that in case cricketer Yuvraj Singh is arrested on joining the probe, he should be released on interim bail upon furnishing bail and surety bonds, while noting that the Haryana Police is presently seeking only “formal arrest” of Singh in an alleged casteist remark case.

A single-judge bench of Justice Amol Rattan Singh passed this order while hearing Yuvraj Singh’s petition.

Senior Counsel Puneet Bali has addressed arguments in reference to what constitutes an offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. He submitted that what Singh intended by using the word (bhangi) in the video recording of the conversation between him and his friend did not in any manner intend to promote feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will against members of the SC/STs. The word was used only in the context of an inebriated person, the counsel said.

The Senior Counsel further submitted that in any case there was no mens rea behind the usage of the word, which was used in a casual conversation pertaining to a marriage of a friend who does not belong to a SC/ST community.

He also submitted that even as regards the provisions of the IPC that the petitioner has been accused of committing offences under, i.e. Sections 153-A and 153-B of the Code, it is obvious that in the context that the word was used, there was no intention and no promotion of enmity between different groups, on the ground of religion, place of birth, race, residence, language etc., and no act was committed prejudicial to maintenance of harmony (reference to Section 153-A and Section 153-B).

The Court noted, “It is to be noticed that in the short affidavit filed by the SP, it has been stated that the petitioners’ physical presence was required for effecting his “formal arrest” in view of the provisions contained in Section 18A(b) of the Act of 1989.

As it is to be again noticed, State counsel on the previous date of hearing had referred to the judgment of the Supreme Court in M/s Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. vs. State of Maharashtra and others, AIR 2021 SC 1918, to submitted that the order passed by the court at the time when notice of motion was issued, to the effect that no coercive steps be taken against the petitioner, is an order that the court should not pass, even in terms of the ratio of that judgment.

As regards that particular phrase (“no coercive steps”), it has been referred to by their Lordships in clauses (xvi) and (xvii) of the conclusions drawn, i.e. the parameters laid down as regards staying operation/quashing of FIRs/staying investigation/staying coercive steps.

Bali has pointed out that even as per the Merriam Webster dictionary, there are two meanings of the word in question (bhangi), one pertaining to a particular caste and the other with regard to a person who uses bhang (an intoxicant), the petitioner has used it in the second sense.

Counsel for the complainant however submitted that that is an argument raised before the court after the petition was filed, with the petition itself not containing that contention at all and therefore it was only an “ingenious argument” made by senior counsel.

“Having considered the matter, as regards the order passed by the court on September 15, 2021, directing that no coercive steps be taken against the petitioner, with the Supreme Court, in clause (xvi) of the judgment in M/s Neeharika Infrastructure Case (supra) having observed that normally such directions should not issued by the court and the accused should be relegated to apply for anticipatory bail under the provisions of Section 438 of the Cr.P.C., and admittedly the petitioner not having done that so far, but with it seen that the SP herself is seeking only “formal arrest” of the petitioner in terms of Section 18-A(b) of the Act of 1989, the interim order is modified to the extent that the petitioner, upon joining investigation with the investigating officer, if he is sought to be arrested, would be released on interim bail, upon furnishing bail and surety bonds to his satisfaction, till the next date of hearing before the court.

It is made absolutely clear that if the SP has anything further to say on the issue, with regard to the phrase “formal arrest” used by her in her affidavit, she would file another affidavit clarifying what she meant,” the court ordered.

Arguments have been addressed at length by Senior Counsel, however, he wishes to address arguments further. For that purpose, the court adjourned the matter to November 18, 2021.

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