The Gauhati High Court in its order dated December 28, 2021 granted anticipatory bail to inventor and Padma Shri awardee Uddhab Kumar Bharali, who has been accused of charges under Section 6 (aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
While granting the interim bail, Justice Arun Dev Choudhury considered the antecedents of the petitioner and his allegation, that the case was meant to humiliate him, amongst other reasons. Seeking the interest of justice, Justice Choudhary opined,
..considering the antecedents of the petitioner, his allegation that the instant FIR has been lodged to humiliate and malign his reputation, the counter prosecution lodged by the petitioner against the Chairman & Member of CWC and also taking note of the fact that the FIR annexed in the present petition do not disclose any specific statement of the victims, this court is of the opinion that interest of justice would be made including that of the victim and the informant if the following order is passed as an interim measure.
Uddhab Bharali is an innovator from Assam with the patent of over 460 machineries. He is known for innovations like paddy thresher, cane stripping machine, pomegranate de-seeder and low cost incinerator.
He received the Padma Shri from President Ram Nath Kovind in 2019 for science and engineering.
In August 2020, the office of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Lakhimpur requested Bharali to provide a foster home for two girls. After he agreed to do so, the children were placed under the care of his wife and himself.
However, some dispute arose with one Anil Kr. Bora, Chairman, Child Welfare Committee, (CWC) Lakhimpur, with the petitioner and accordingly vide Communication dated October 26, 2021, the petitioner was asked to produce the girls as stated above on or before October 28, 2021 at 1 P.M. and accordingly the petitioner produced the two girls before the CWC on that day. Since then, the girls are under custody of the CWC.
The CWC claimed that the children were not willing to be placed in the custody of Bharali and his wife again.
Allegations by Petitioner
Bharali contended that the deed was only cancelled due to the dispute between the Chairman and himself. It was reasoned that nowhere in the grounds for cancellation of the deed was sexual abuse reflected.
In fact, he suggested the FIR also did not contain any specific statement by the victims except that the petitioner used to hold her hand to bad activities.
For these reasons, Bharali sought interim protection.
Arguments by Defense
On the other hand, the Additional Public Prosecutor opposed the application strongly, arguing that social status was not a consideration when there were such serious allegations surrounding sexual abuse of minor victims placed under the care and custody of the petitioner.
Gauhati High Court
While acknowledging the seriousness of the charges, the Court found in favour of granting anticipatory bail to Bharali. Thus the court noted,
Accordingly, interim pre-arrest bail to the petitioner namely, Uddhab Kumar Bharali is granted to the effect that in the event of arrest of the petitioner above named, in connection with the case aforementioned, he shall be released on bail on furnishing bail bond of Rs.25,000/- with a suitable surety of the like amount, to the satisfaction of arresting authority.
The pre-arrest bail is granted on the following conditions:
(1) The petitioner shall not leave the territorial jurisdiction of the aforesaid police station, without prior written permission from its officer-in-charge
(2) The petitioner shall not try to contact the victim by any manner including the medium of telephone or internet
(3) The petitioner shall not hamper with the investigation, or tamper with the evidence of the case
(4) The petitioner shall not, directly or indirectly, make any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade him from disclosing such facts to the Court or to any police officer
(5) The petitioner shall appear before the Officer-incharge, North Lakhimpur PS within 7(seven) days from today for recording of his statement
(6) The petitioner shall appear before the I.O. of the Case as and when called for
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