Summoning a person to a police station without registering a criminal complaint violates natural justice.

On the 15th of September 2021 the Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices U U Lalit,  S Ravindra Bhat and Bela S Trivedi heard a contempt appeal filed against the order of the division bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The facts of the case are that the petitioner had a strained relationship with his wife. The wife therein on the 4th of August 2016 filed a complaint under section 498A of the IPC against the husband. Following this a representation was made by the petitioner to both the Superintendent of Police (SP) and the Station Head Officer (SHO) in the petitioner’s locality fearing an attack from his wife’s family.

After the representations were neglected by both the SP and the SHO the petitioner approached the Andhra Pradesh High Court with a Writ Petition seeking protection from arrest in the complaint filed by the wife. The High Court vide its order dated 19th of August 2016 passed an order protecting the petitioner from arrest and further directed the SHO to ensure that the provisions of section 41A as laid down in Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar are followed.

On the 29th of August 2016 the petitioner was forcibly taken from his home by the SHO and others. In an inquiry by the Magistrate it was found that the petitioner was illegally detained in the police station for two days and was forced to sign an agreement to pay Rs. 9 lakhs to the wife, contrary to the order of the High Court.

A Single Judge bench of the High Court accepted the findings that the Magistrate had recorded and found that the SHO had violated the principles which had been laid down in Arnesh Kumar (supra) which states that a police officer should not arrest a person when a complaint under section 498A is filed until parameters for notice under section 41A have been met. As such the SHO was sentenced to undergo 3 months of imprisonment as stipulated under Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act.

On appeal the Division Bench of the Andhra High Court set aside the order of the Single Judge.

When the matter came up for hearing before the Supreme Court the bench took the view that summoning a person to the police station and further detaining him for 2 days without even registering a criminal complaint violates the principle of natural justice. Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra appearing for the SHO requested that the sentence of imprisonment be commuted and a fine be imposed. The bench remarked that “if you impose a fine on the police officer you know from where he’ll recover the money. It will not be a punishment for him.”

The bench therein set aside the judgment of the Division Bench and restored the Single Bench judgment. The Court however reduced the sentence of imprisonment from 3 months to 15 days and directed the SHO to surrender before the High Court registrar within 2 weeks.

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