The Madras High Court has quashed a First Information Report (FIR) registered against C.N. Siva Shankaran, alias Siva Shankar Baba, a godman, on the charge of having misbehaved with a single mother of a former student of a school at Kelambakkam near Chennai. The court quashed the FIR on the sole ground of the complaint having been barred by limitation.
Justice R.N. Manjula wrote: “In the instant case, the petitioner/accused is an influential religious person who projected himself as the star of hope for many people and for whom there were lot of devotees. The serious allegations of beast-like attitude of the petitioner have been made recently. There are serious complaints against the petitioner that the children studying in his school were the targets for his sexual exploitations. It is not uncommon that when long suppressed illegal acts of any influential person is brought out, many people affected by him will get emboldened and courageous to report about the unlawful acts.”
“The second respondent/de facto complaint has stated in her complaint that she tried to swallow the bitter part of her life as she was helpless at the time when the offence was committed in 2010… She gathered courage only in 2021 after seeing many complaints of sexual abuse made against the petitioner and that he was arrested,” she further wrote.
Nevertheless, the judge said that she had no option but to quash the FIR because of the “technical flaw” on the part of the police in not having filed a condone delay petition, under Section 473 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, while submitting the FIR before the Judicial Magistrate concerned in 2021. The judge rejected the prosecution’s contention that they had planned to file such condone delay petition at the time of filing the charge sheet. She pointed out that the FIR had been booked under Section 354 (outraging modesty) of Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act of 2002.While the maximum punishment under Section 354 was two years of imprisonment, the maximum punishment under Section 4 of the 2002 Act was three years. As per law, a court could take cognisance of such offences only within three years of the occurrence but in the present case, the complaint had been lodged after 10 years. Therefore, the police ought to have filed a condone delay petition while submitting the FIR before Magistrate and should not have decided to wait till the filing of the final report, the judge said.
“Though the allegations made by the second respondent is serious in nature, because of the absence of any petition under Section 473 Cr.P.C. to condone the delay filed along with the complaint, the case becomes barred by limitation. In the said circumstances, I feel that the investigation cannot serve any fruitful purpose and for the reasons of technical flaw, the FIR is liable to be quashed,” the judge concluded.