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Indian Case Summary

State Through Delhi … vs Sanjay Gandhi on 5 May, 1978 – Case Summary

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In the case of “State Through Delhi vs Sanjay Gandhi on 5 May, 1978”, the Supreme Court of India was presented with a significant legal matter involving the respondent, Sanjay Gandhi, who was arraigned as accused No. 2 in a prosecution instituted by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Delhi. The case was presided over by Y.V. Chandrachud, the then Chief Justice of India.

Facts of the Case

The case revolved around a film titled ‘Kissa Kursi Ka’, produced by Amrit Nahata. The film was a political satire that portrayed the story of Sanjay Gandhi and his mother, Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India. The Board of Censors had declined to grant a certificate for the exhibition of the film, leading to Nahata filing a writ petition in the Supreme Court.

In order to prevent the Supreme Court from exercising its constitutional jurisdiction and to prevent the film from being publicly exhibited, it was alleged that Sanjay Gandhi and his co-accused, Vidya Charan Shukla, who was then the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, conspired to take possession of the film and destroy it. The film was transported from Bombay to Delhi and was subsequently destroyed by setting fire to it at the premises of Maruti Limited, a company where Gandhi was the Managing Director.

Issues Raised

The prosecution charged Sanjay Gandhi with offences under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 409 (criminal breach of trust by a public servant), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage), and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The prosecution also alleged that Gandhi had tampered with witnesses, leading to them turning hostile during the trial. This led to the Delhi Administration filing an application for the cancellation of Gandhi’s bail. The High Court of Delhi dismissed this application, leading to an appeal in the Supreme Court.

Court’s Observations

The Supreme Court observed that the cancellation of bail already granted is a serious matter that involves the review of a decision already made. It can be permitted only if, by reason of supervening circumstances, it would be no longer conducive to a fair trial to allow the accused to retain his freedom during the trial.

The court also noted that the fact that prosecution witnesses have turned hostile cannot by itself justify the inference that the accused has won them over. The prosecution must show some act or conduct on the part of the respondent from which a reasonable inference may arise that the witnesses have gone back on their statements as a result of an intervention by or on behalf of the respondent.

The court further observed that it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove by a mathematical certainty or even beyond a reasonable doubt that the witnesses have turned hostile because they are won over by the accused. The prosecution can establish its case in an application for cancellation of bail by showing on a preponderance of probabilities that the accused has attempted to tamper or has tampered with its witnesses.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal in part, stating that the respondent had misused the facility afforded to him by the High Court by granting anticipatory bail to him. The court held that the respondent had abused his liberty by attempting to suborn the prosecution witness, and therefore, he had forfeited his right to remain free. However, the court also made it clear that its observations should not influence the decision of the case, and the Sessions Judge is free to assess and evaluate the evidence, unhampered by any observations made by the Supreme Court.