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Ms. Abigail Stepen Rosa Vs The State of Maharashtra

CASE BRIEF

Petitioner Ms. Abigail Stepen Rosa

Respondent The State of Maharashtra

Decided on 29.07.13.

Statutes referred: Indian Penal Code, 1860

Facts:

  • A fashion show (Lakme Fashion Show) took place in Hotel Grand Hyatt in March 2009 where Akshay Kumar walked the ramp for a brand of which he was the brand ambassador. A model was supposedly to walk and unbutton his trouser but instead he moved towards his wife, Twinkle Khanna, who was seated in the audience and directed his waist and by gesture asked her unbutton his trouser and she did.
  • However, when this was aired the first informant Anil Nair on 30.03.2009 was watching television at his residence along with his family members and friends when they came across this fashion show on a news channel Aaj Tak. They were embarrassed because the gestures and actions were obscene, immoral and vulgar according to them.
  • This was being repeatedly telecasted and when they switched the channels Sahara news channel was also telecasting the same. Since friends and family included both women and children a huge embarrassment was said to be faced by complainant resulting in him being annoyed.
  • He reported the matter through a letter through his advocate in respect of offence punishable under Section 294 read with 34 of the IPC against film star Akshay Kumar, his wife Twinkle Khanna and others. Specifically mentioning that Akshay Kumar, his wife Twinkle Khanna, the organizers of the show, and the management of the Hotel Grand Hyatt as persons responsible for the obscene performance and that they be prosecuted.

Issues

How petitioner is the organizer?

How was she held liable for the acts of the said companies, or any of them?

Contentions by the Parties

Petitioner Arguments-

The petitioner, Ms. Abigail, one of the accused contended that there was no case for proceeding against her and challenged the order of the Magistrate who took cognizance of the alleged offence, the petitioner approached the court of Sessions by filing an application for revision. However, since the revision application was barred by limitation, the petitioner made an application for condonation of delay.

The Additional Sessions Judge, dismissed the application dated 30.1.2012. Aggrieved petitioner approached Bombay high court by invoking its constitutional jurisdiction.

The petitioner challenged only the order passed by the court of Sessions, later requested by seeking substantial relief of quashing the prosecution against her.

 She argued that she worked in legal department of the International Merchandising Corporation only as Assistant / Secretary. The nature of duties discharged by her was of an Office Secretary to the Legal Counsel of the said company.

The petitioner’s job included liasoning with the operational departments, taking dictations, print outs, couriering documents, co- ordinating for government licenses and permissions required for the various events managed by the company. The petitioner was neither a Director, nor employed in any Managerial cadre in the said company.

The petitioner’s company and M/s.Hindustan Unilever Ltd. came together to create “Lakme Fashion Week” as a leading trade / business event in India to promote the fashion industry. The petitioner was not concerned or associated with any of the discussions, planning, designing or implementation of the Lakme Fashion Show, and that, she was discharging duties purely of a secretarial nature, as a secretarial assistant to the head of the Legal Department, of the said company.

Respondent’s Arguments-

APP claimed that the petitioner was the said organizer of the show in in which the obscene act was said to be performed by the co-accused Akshay Kumar and his wife Twinkle Khanna.

They made the petitioner an accused in the case, on the basis that she was legal assistant and secretary of her company i.e. M/s.International Merchandising Corporation.

 They argued that it was the petitioner who signed off the consent for permission seeking letter for holding of the event.

Judgement

The Bombay High Court bench comprising ABHAY M. THIPSAY, J Held the following:

That no substance was evident in the contention indicating that petitioner had signed the letter and that even if she had done so she could not be deemed to be the organizer of the show as it included many film stars and multinational companies.

Petitioner was not to be held liable or prosecuted for the alleged offence, even if the organizers of the said fashion show would be so liable, the petitioner could not be termed as the organizer and there were no fact stating otherwise.

Petitioner was not held liable for any offence as the allegation itself was termed absurd as section 34 mentions that the accused should participate with the common intention where in this case Twinkle Khanna was the one participating with Akshay Kumar by unbuttoning the jeans he was wearing, whereas petitioner had no role in the act.

It was clarified by the court that:

 The quashing of the prosecution against the petitioner should not be construed as expression of an opinion by this court that the organizers of the fashion show are not responsible for the alleged offence, or for aiding and abetting the same. All that this court has decided is that the petitioner is not responsible for the alleged offences.

 The investigating agency were asked to look for the real organizers meaning the persons having actual control of organizing the show and no such persons as the petitioner, an office secretary working in a multinational company, should be prosecuted.

The matter was said to brought to the notice of the Commissioner of Police for BrihanMumbai, who if thought fit were to take actions accordingly with law.

The prosecution pending before the Metropolitan Magistrate was quashed and was instructed to proceed further with the case in accordance with law.

Conclusion

The court clearly though this propounded the fact that no citizen should be prosecuted on baseless facts or allegations and if so were to happen the judiciary would always prevent such an abuse of law so that no individual is wrongfully convicted.

Prepared by Faigha Naz