New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday rapped the trial judge for going ahead with the charge of sexual assault against Haryana MLA Gopal Kanda despite the court in its verdict dropping the charge in the airhostess Geetika Sharma suicide case.
Justice GP Mittal got irked over the interpretation of the trial court, which had held that the heinous charges can still be invoked against Kanda, as he had not moved the high court like a co-accused Aruna Chadha on whose plea charges of abetment of rape and unnatural sex against her was quashed.
While deciding Chadha`s plea, the high court had also held that the charges cannot be "sustained" against Kanda, a former Haryana minister and prime accused in the case.
"I am very much concerned with the way the District and Sessions Judge interpreted the high court order. It is very strange the kind of things that are going on in the District Court," Justice Mittal said while setting aside the two trial court orders which misinterpreted the high court verdict.
"Orders of the trial court of August 14, 2013 and August 17, 2013 are set aside," the high court said and asked the parties to appear before the trial court on November 28.
The high court passed the order on an application moved by Chadha, seeking clarification of the situation-as to whether a fast track court should hear the matter in view of charges of rape and unnatural offence having being dropped-and seeking directions to the trial court to alter charges against her.
Senior advocate UU Lalit and advocate Meghna Sankhla, appearing on behalf of Chadha, argued that in view of the high court verdict the fast track court (FTC) conducting the trial had sent the matter to the District and Sessions Judge who misinterpreted the high court`s order remitted the case back to the FTC.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sidharth Luthra argued that the remedy sought by Chadha is an "abuse" of the process of law as she cannot file an application in a petition already disposed of by the high court and added that she should have moved the trial court for alteration of charges instead of coming to the high court.
Lalit during his arguments submitted that they had moved
for alteration of charges in the trial court, but the same was not considered and added that conduct of proceedings in a fast track court, which hears cases of sexual offences against women, carries with it a different emphasis.
He also said that his client is also open to the trial against her and Kanda being held separately.
"If co-accused and my (Chadha) trial is separated, I have no difficulty at all," Lalit said, while challenging the trial court`s August 14 and 17 orders.
In his August 14, 2013 order, the District and Sessions Judge had held that since Kanda has not challenged in the high court the charges of rape and unnatural offence, the charges framed against him have attained finality due to bar of limitation.
"It is only those accused persons who challenge the order of a criminal court in a revision petition or in a petition under the CrPC who derive benefit out of the order of the high court and the same benefit cannot be automatically extended to other accused persons who have not challenged the order," the trial judge had said.
He had also held that the case remains one of "sexual assault on a woman, till there is specific judicial order of deletion of charges under sections 376 (rape) and 377 (unnatural offence) of IPC against accused Gopal Goyal Kanda", adding that since it is joint trial the bail pleas of both accused was moved to the fast track court which hears cases of sexual offences against women.
As per the District and Sessions Judge`s order, the fast track court on August 17 had retained the matter with it and conducted the trial against both Kanda and Chadha without altering the charges of rape and unnatural offences.
The 23-year-old former air hostess, who was earlier employed with Kanda`s MLDR Airlines, was found dead on August 5, last year at her Ashok Vihar residence in North West Delhi. In her August 4 suicide note, she had said she was ending her life due to "harassment" by Kanda, 46, and Chadha, 40. Both had denied the accusation.
The lower court had on May 10, 2013 framed charges against Chadha and Kanda for various offences including abetment of suicide, criminal conspiracy and forgery under the IPC and the Information Technology Act for hacking computers and sending offencive or false messages.
It had framed additional and fresh charges of rape and unnatural offence against Kanda and Chadha who was also booked for abetting the commission of these offences.
The High Court on July 25, 2013 had held the offences, including abetment of suicide, was made out against them, but there was no prima facie evidence indicating that they were also involved in the commission of rape and unnatural sex.