About a year ago, a 16-year-old girl was raped by three youths belonging to affluent families in Lucknow. The girl, who worked as a domestic help, was inflicted with cigarette burn marks before she was thrown by the roadside. Somehow, she was brought to her home on the outskirts of the city and her parents, despite their poor economic status, lodged a complaint with the police. When the police reached the door of the one of the accused, Gaurav Shukla, who happens to be the nephew of the Samajwadi Party MLC Arun Shankar Shukla alias Anna, himself facing criminal charges, they were surprised to find him flaunt an order from the court staying the arrest. The same was the case with the other two accused.
Increasingly, in a new turn to the rule of flaw in Uttar Pradesh, the high and mighty are evading arrest by procuring stay orders from the court well before time. "My experience has proved that only the rich enjoy this provision while rest of the people cannot afford it," says I.B. Singh, senior criminal lawyer of the High Court.
On the face of it, Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's decision of introducing anticipatory bail in Uttar Pradesh was meant to benefit a large chunk of the population which had been deprived of the provision so far. He had directed his Home and Law departments to prepare a draft in this regard to satisfy the High Court which itself had asked the government to explain its position with regard to the move. The Allahabad High Court, while responding to a PIL on May 9 last, directed the Uttar Pradesh Government to pass an ordinance for the reintroduction of anticipatory bail in Uttar Pradesh. The court also informed that a similar direction be given to the government in July 29, 2002 for the restoration of Section 438 of the CrPC. According to Singh, the court then had also recommended the repealing of Section 9 of the Uttar Pradesh Act of 1976 and empower the sessions and the high court to grant anticipatory bail.
A key question is why was the provision of anticipatory bail made inapplicable in Uttar Pradesh? Soon after Emergency was proclaimed in the country in 1975, the then state government had introduced Section 9 of the Uttar Pradesh Act in 1976 rendering Section 438 of the CrPC inapplicable. In the late 70s, there were large-scale reports of businessmen and petty traders committing crimes and getting anticipatory bails, causing a serious problem for the law-enforcing
agencies. It was in this background that Section 18 of the Uttar Pradesh Act was introduced, stopping the implementation of the anticipatory bail provision. Now the chief minister had reintroduced the anticipatory bail in the state.
However, senior police officers are strongly opposing the move saying that it would only facilitate criminals. "The police personnel whether of the SP rank or a constable are being publicly thrashed, humiliated and stripped of their uniform by rowdy members of the ruling Samajwadi Party in the state. Criminals are having a field day. Politicians are giving them blatant protection. With anticipatory bail at their hands, the criminals would commit a crime and immediately apply for relief," says an agitated Girish Bihari Saxena, retired director general of police.
Prakash Singh, another retired director general of police, says anticipatory bail per se is welcome but given the state of affairs in Uttar Pradesh, where the line between politicians and criminals is getting blurred by the day, it was not the right time to reintroduce it. There have been instances in the past when someone who committed a crime in Allahabad, sought anticipatory bail from Muzaffarngar where the judge knew nothing about the case . This would only create further
anarchy, adds the police officer. The apprehensions may not be entirely unfounded.