Karnataka HC won’t revoke FIR against Prakash Raj for campaigning at protest meet

Before Prakash Raj contested for the elections, a charge was filed for campaigning at an event. HC upheld this, along with charges against the organisers.

Recently, Justice Sreeniwas Harish Kumar of the Karnataka High Court to revoke the FIR charged against Prakash Raj- the actor- along with two others. The three were charged with violating the Model Code of Conduct for elections and causing public nuisance by campaigning at a protest meet.

Why was Prakash Raj arrested?

On March 12th, the NGO Grama Seva Sangha organised a peaceful protest meet at Mahatma Gandhi Circle on March 12, with permission from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). The event was organised under “Media and Freedom of Expression.”

Assistant Engineer with BBMP, who was on the vigilance squad for election duty, reported that two persons, Abhilash CA and Praveen K, gathered a group of around 25 people, used a mic without permission, and obstructed pedestrians.

Allegedly, Prakash Raj, who was present at the programme spoke about the upcoming election, and in doing so campaigning for votes. He contested the elections from Bangalore last year, but did not win. According to the Hindu, some of the attendees forwarded his recorded to election organisers.

The police charged Raj and the organisers of the event under various sections of the Representation of People Act and the Karnataka Police Act. Prakash Raj then approached the High Court, requesting them to quash the complaint.

Bar and Bench reported:

Arguments Raised

Counsel for the petitioner argued that when the investigating officer sought permission of the Magistrate for registration of FIR, the latter ordered the said NCR to be registered as a private complaint under Section 200 CrPC. However, there was no supporting affidavit of the first informant.

It was also argued that when the protest meet was held, the petitioner had not yet filed his nomination to contest in the Lok Sabha elections. It was further stated that he just participated in the meeting as a citizen, and that he was not the organizer of the protest meet.

Opposing this, the High Court Government Pleader contended that there was a large gathering which caused obstruction to pedestrians and traffic. He argued that since the investigating officer sought permission to register FIR and investigate, filing of affidavit was not at all necessary.

He was further of the view that there were no grounds to interfere under Section 482 of the Code, and therefore sought dismissal of the petition.

What the Court held

After going through the relevant provisions of the CrPC, the Court noted,

“So it is clear that a person who reports to the police of an offence which is non-cognizable has every right to make a complaint according to section 200 of the Code. At the same time it may also be stated that nothing prevents a police officer from applying to the Magistrate for an order to register FIR and proceed further according to section 155(2) of the Code. This is what is discernible if sections 155 and 190 of the Code are read.”

The Court next went into the argument that there was no supporting affidavit of the first informant, as required under Section 200 CrPC.

Referring to the decision of the Supreme Court in Priyanka Srivastava and Another v. State of Uttar Pradesh and Others, the Bench opined that an affidavit is insisted upon with a view to bind the complainant to the allegations that he has made and to take action against him in case these allegations turn out to be false.

“The conspectus of the ratio is that affidavit is necessary to be filed with the complaint only in those cases where the police fail to take any action when a report of commission of an offence is made to them according to section 154(1) of the Code and the Superintendent of Police also fails to initiate action when his attention is drawn as required under section 154(3) of the Code.”

However, the Court observed that when the police officer placed the report of commission of a non-cognizable offence (NCR), the Magistrate should not have directed his office to register it as a private complaint, and that such a procedure is not contemplated.

On the issue of lack of a supporting affidavit, the Court commented that procedural irregularity cannot be a ground for invoking jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Code. Besides, it was noted that the petitioner’s counsel failed to point out the substantial injustice caused to him on account of the procedural error.

Concluding its order, the Court opined that bare denial of the charge sheet cannot be a ground for interference under Section 482 of the Code.

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