The Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its judgement dated 16.10.2020 dismissed a plea filed by an investigative journalist seeking the transfer of three cases pending against him, holding that the plea for transfer of case should not be entertained on mere apprehension of a hyper sensitive person.

The said judgement was pronounced in a plea filed by one Umesh Kumar Sharma under Section 406 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 read with Order XXXIX of the Supreme Court Rules seeking transfer of three criminal cases pending before different courts in Dehradun to competent courts in Delhi or some other courts outside the State of Uttarakhand, for fear of “vindictive prosecution” by the State.

The contents of the allegations in the FIR No.16/2007 (registered on 9.2.2007) relates to a property dispute involving the Will (dated 20.1.1995), of a family member of the petitioner.

The next FIR No.128/2018 (registered on 1.11.2018) relates to forcible land grabbing attempts, on the basis of purportedly fake of documents.

FIR 100/2018 (dated 10.8.2018) relates to the allegation of a core member of the investigative journalism team accusing that the petitioner in the guise of sting operation does not air them and the concerned footages are utilized for extraneous purposes.

Umesh Kumar Sharma submitted that as a journalist, he had conducted sting operations against the Chief Minister, his relatives and associates in the State of Uttarakhand, and was therefore being targeted for malicious prosecution. Moreover, besides the three cases for which transfer was sought, many false cases were foisted against him. It was thereby contended that the Petitioner had a genuine and justifiable apprehension that justice will not be done if the trials were conducted in the courts within the State of Uttarakhand and hence those cases be transferred either to the courts in Delhi or to any other competent courts, out of Uttarakhand.

Counsel for the State of Uttarakhand, Ms. Ruchira Gupta argued that the Petitioner had failed to establish reasons as to the manner in which the Petitioner will be prejudiced if the trials continue in the courts at Dehradun, and that the plea was filed solely for the purpose of delaying the proceedings.

The learned Counsel submitted that the Petitioner had filed five PILs in the year 2020 itself in the High Court of Uttarakhand which clearly demonstrated that the Petitioner was conducting his affairs without any hassles. It was further submitted that some of the criminal cases against the Petitioner were closed and the charges of extortion had been dropped clearly demonstrating the unbiased approach of the State Government and the incorrect and bald allegation made by the Petitioner.

 

Taking note of the merits of the case, Justice Hrishikesh Roy noted that there are 28 cases pending against the scribe all over India therefore, the Court stated that he was not an “ordinary person” and that the State had withdrawn prosecution in many cases filed against the Petitioner. Justice Roy held that the prosecution cannot be stated to have malicious intent, as most of the cases against the Petitioner are not related to his journalistic activities. The judgment reads as follows, “When the nature of the three cases are examined, it is seen that two of the cases are property and Will related matters. One of this case is pending for last over a decade. Therefore, this court finds it difficult to accept that the cases are on account of journalistic activities of the petitioner. In fact the credibility of the journalistic activity of the petitioner is itself questioned, by a member of his sting operation team, in the third case. In such circumstances, the prosecution in the concerned three cases can’t prima facie be said to be on account of malicious prosecution.”

Stating that the Petitioner had failed to make out a credible case for transfer of trial to alternative venues outside the State, the Hon’ble High Court held that a transfer plea cannot be on a mere apprehension of a hyper-sensitive person.

The transfer petitions were therefore dismissed.

Order: Umesh_Kumar_Sharma_vs_State_of_Uttarakhand