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SC issues contempt notice to Gujarat officials over police custody of a man on interim bail

The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed disappointment as it came down heavily on the Gujarat officials who remanded a man into custody, violating the order of the apex court which granted him anticipatory bail. SC issued notices to the additional chief secretary (home), Surat Police commissioner, deputy commissioner, inspector of Vesu police station, and the concerned additional chief judicial magistrate of the Gujarat state government.

Expressing great dissatisfaction with the conduct of the police and the Magistrate, for not complying with its initial order, a bench comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta said, “This is a gross contempt of the court’s order on the face of the record. How could he have been taken into custody? How could the investigating officer (IO) dare to seek the remand?”

Accused in a cheating case, a resident of Surat, Businessman Tusharbhai Rajnikantbhai Shah was granted an interim anticipatory bail on December 8, 2023.

As reported by The Wire, Shah said that he had appeared before the police on December 11 to help with the investigation but was arrested and released on bail the same day. However, again on December 13, the police moved a remand application before a local court resulting in his police custody for four days.

The top court further said, the situation needs to be rectified in some manner. “The IO (investigating officer) and magistrate must learn some lessons from this. We will issue the notice for contempt to the magistrate also. Is this the manner in which they deal with the Supreme Court’s Order?” Justice Gavai questioned. 

According to Iqbal Syed, the petitioner’s lawyer, Shah was remanded to police custody for four days until December 16, when he was threatened and beaten. When the court asked for a CCTV recording from the station, Raju said it was not functional. In response, Justice Gavai said, “It shows the conduct. On the very same day, it is not functioning!”

Justice Mehta called it “blatant illegal custody for four days!”, while Justice Gavai added, “Let the Magistrate and the IO be inside for four days.” The two-judge bench sought an explanation as to why the CCTV was not working on that particular day.

Moreover, Surat police commissioner Ajay Kumar Tomar told The Indian Express that he was unaware of the incident and would get the matter checked from his office. 

Acknowledging the “blunder” of the officers, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju who represented the Gujarat government, apologised unconditionally but was not accepted by the court. In its stand, the court stated that the act was a “gross violation” and sought the replies of the concerned authorities by January 29.

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