Published on: 02 December 2022 at 21:15 IST
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Bombay High Court challenging the Government Resolution (GR) to withdraw proceedings against persons who organize or participate in bullock cart races in the state.
The division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Abhay Ahuja posted the matter for further hearing on January 12, 2023.
On 13 April 2022, the state government issued a GR approving the withdrawal of offenses filed against persons for organizing or participating in bullock cart races during the period of prohibition on holding bullock cart races in the state.
The GR provides that once the committee constituted under it recommends withdrawal of prosecution in a certain case, the public prosecutor has to approach the court concerned for the same.
This violates Section 321 of the CrPC and parameters laid down by the Supreme Court in State of Kerala v. K. Ajith, the petition, filed through Advocate Preet Phanse contends.
According to the petition, before deciding to withdraw the prosecution, the prosecutor has to take a decision on a case-to-case basis depending on various factors such as the seriousness of the offense and its impact on the society.
The petitioner submits that the role of the public prosecutor is not limited to seeking instructions from the court and in a mechanical manner without applying mind.
Following the filing of this PIL, the state government issued a corrigendum to the GR, stating that the prosecutor ‘has to take appropriate decision and take further action as per Section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973’.
According to the petition, the state government has no authority to issue such a GR. Under Section 321 of the CrPC, the Public Prosecutor in charge of a certain case may decide to withdraw the prosecution.
However, Section 321 does not contemplate a general policy for withdrawal of prosecution, argues the petition.
The petition states that before the government issued the GR, the home minister had announced that all offenses relating to bullock cart races would be withdrawn. Due to this, new offenses have been registered for non-existence or organizing of persons participating in bullock cart race.
According to the petition, incidents of cruelty against animals will increase if the culprits get away with it and defeat the purpose of the PCA Act and Rules.
It has been said in the petition that there is no ban on organizing bullock cart races in the state, but the race cannot be organized contrary to the PCA Act and rules. Withdrawal of prosecution in cases where races are conducted without permission or in contravention of the permission granted would defeat the penal provisions in the PCA Act.
The petition claimed that the PCA Maharashtra Amendment Act 2017 and the rules made thereunder are not being implemented during the conduct of bullock cart races.
In 2017, the state amended the PCA Act, allowing the conduct of bullock cart races in state government. Subsequently, the Bombay High Court directed the state government not to grant any permission for bullock cart races even after the PCA Maharashtra (Amendment) Act 2014 and the rules thereunder came into force.
An appeal against this is pending in the Supreme Court. In December 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that the state’s amendments and rules would remain in effect pending an appeal.
The petition prays that the court set aside the GR and declare that it is in breach of Section 321 of the CrPC as well as Supreme Court judgement in State of Kerala v. K. Ajith. The petition also seeks interim stay on the GR during the pendency of the PIL.