In a rare verdict, the Madras High Court has directed a judicial officer, who remanded a woman complainant to custody as though she was a suspect, to pay Rs. 1 lakh as compensation and also costs of Rs.10,000 to her. Also, the Judge ordered that the matter be placed on the administrative side of the High Court for initiation of action against the judicial officer.

Allowing the woman’s writ petition, Justice Vinod K. Sharma said the acts of the magistrate were not bona fide. After the negligence was pointed out to her, the magistrate continued to treat the woman as an accused and released her only on bail bonds. “By her irresponsible act, Respondent 2 (magistrate) deprived the petitioner of her liberty and hence violated her fundamental rights.”

The petitioner submitted that a man by name John Kennedy was in love with her and promised to marry her. On his assurance, she developed intimacy with him and became pregnant.

When she asked him to marry her, he refused and also insulted her. He also tried to give money to terminate the pregnancy. She filed a complaint with the police in October 2000. The police arrested Kennedy and remanded him to custody. He was sent for a medical check-up. The woman was brought before the then Judicial Magistrate, Dharmapuri, Gunavathi.

The petitioner’s counsel, Sudha Ramalingam, submitted that the magistrate, without enquiring anything about the case, remanded her to custody for 15 days. The petitioner was not aware as to why she was remanded.

Later, the victim received a “summons to an accused person” for offences including rape. Following a petition to the Tamil Nadu State Women’s Commission about her plight, a DNA test was conducted and the paternity of the male child was established to be that of John Kennedy. After the case was committed to the Sub-Court, Dharmapuri in April 2004, she was asked to be present for deposing as a witness; but there was no progress in the case. The magistrate filed an affidavit stating that she always discharged her duties as per law and throughout her career she did not commit any error of fact or law. She did not remand the victim. She had not signed the summons.

Mr. Justice Sharma said a perusal of records showed that it was indeed Ms.Gunavathi who had remanded the petitioner to judicial custody. Further, the Magistrate did not correct her mistake when a woman Sub-Inspector, S.Chitra Devi, brought it to her notice. In a completely irresponsible manner, without verifying the facts, the judicial officer released the woman on bail bonds.

The Judge said the magistrate had filed a false affidavit before the High Court. Hence, he recommended that the judicial officer be proceeded against departmentally for acting with extreme negligence. Further, notice should also be issued to her to show cause why proceedings should not be initiated against her.

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