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Bombay High Court granted pre-arrest bail to Javed Shroff, Chairman of Habib Group Trusts Mumbai

Bombay High Court granted pre-arrest bail to Javed Shroff, Chairman of Habib Group Trusts Mumbai

The division bench of the Bombay High Court, comprised of Justices AS Gadkari and Prakash Naik, decided on December 20 that the prohibition against anticipatory bail in cases under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act will not apply as the allegations against him appear to be motivated and an afterthought. Javed Shroff, Chairman of Habib Group Trusts Mumbai, who has been accused of sexual harassment and using casteist slurs against a teacher employed with the trust. 

Only when a prima facie case has been proved under Section 3(i) of the Act does the bar under Section 18A of the SC/ST Act apply. Shroff has been detained by the Dongri police for violating Sections 3(1)(W)(I)(II) of the SC/ST Act as well as Sections 354-A, 504, 506, and 509 of the IPC. 

A division bench found the unclear charges and the unjustified delay in filing the FIR.

“…We are of the opinion that apparently the allegations in FIR are an afterthought and concocted. The allegations are motivated. The complaint was lodged belatedly. The allegations are vague. The period of occurrences is not specified. Hence, the bar under Section 18 would not be attracted in the present case. For the reasons stated hereinabove, this appeal deserves to be allowed."

The complainant joined the trust in 2012 and is a member of the Scheduled Caste and Boudha community, according to the prosecution's case. Prior to the epidemic, she was a primary school teacher. During the pandemic, she served as a coordinator. She said that Shroff, who assumed leadership in 2019, forced her to work at the trust's hospital, abused her, and had her put in late hours. She said that this abuse was confirmed by two additional teachers. She charged him with making lewd gestures and requesting sexual favours.

According to the applicant's attorney Yusuf Iqbal Yusuf, the FIR contained nebulous charges. Given that the first event happened in August 2017, the FIR was finally filed after more than 5 years. He claimed that a case in court was in conflict with the complainant's interview that was printed in one of the publications. He further contended that since the Education department had filed complaints and a committee had been formed to address the errors, action had to be done against the complainant. 

According to the complainant's senior attorney Raja Thakare, Shroff had severely mistreated her, and Section 18 forbids the court from giving anticipatory bail in accordance with Section 438 of the CrPC.

Regarding the FIR's late registration and its imprecise charges, the court concurred with Advocate Yusuf. It also stated that a complaint of harassment to the police lodged barely ten days prior to the FIR did not include any claims of sexual harassment. 

The bench noted that initially it looks like the accusations were made up on the spot. Since the witnesses' services were likewise terminated, the court also determined that they were interested witnesses. 

The court cited a number of Supreme Court rulings to support its assertion that, in cases when allegations appear to be motivated, a person's liberty cannot be taken away unilaterally by a person of any caste without a second opinion. Therefore, Shroff was given pre-arrest bail.

Case Title: Javed Raza Shroff versus The State of Maharashtra
Citation: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1119 OF 2022
Link: https://bombayhighcourt.nic.in/generatepdf.php?bhcpar=cGF0aD0uL3dyaXRlcmVhZGRhdGEvZGF0YS9jcmltaW5hbC8yMDIyLyZmbmFtZT0yMzEwMDAwMTExOTIwMjJfNC5wZGYmc21mbGFnPU4mcmp1ZGRhdGU9JnVwbG9hZGR0PTIwLzEyLzIwMjImc3Bhc3NwaHJhc2U9MzExMjIyMTMzNDAz

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