In a major reprieve for Poonam Bhagat, who is engaged in a legal battle with her estranged husband, industrialist Jaidev Shroff, the Bombay high court on Friday restrained the Khar police from taking any steps on three complaints registered with them against the 48-year-old socialite.
A division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Girish Kulkarni also stayed a non-bailable warrant issued against her by a magistrate court, purportedly at Shroff’s instance. “The magistrate court should not have proceeded with the matter at all, especially when this court (the high court) had sought the record and proceedings of the case (based on Shroff’s complaint that Poonam tried to poison him),” said the bench while staying the non-bailable warrant.
“This is something very shocking,” the bench said, adding, “We will have to deal with the magistrate on the administrative side.” The comments on the conduct of the magistrate came after Bhagat’s counsel, senior advocate Amit Desai, pointed out that after the high court called for record and proceedings of the case, a magistrate, who was holding charge of the court of additional chief metropolitan magistrate (ACMM), advanced hearing of the case, took up the matter urgently on Thursday, and issued a non-bailable warrant against the petitioner (Bhagat).
Desai further pointed out that summons was first issued calling upon a person to be present in court. The second step was issuance of a bailable warrant, if he or she failed to be present. A non-bailable warrant was issued as the last resort. Here, admittedly, no summons is issued to the petitioner (Bhagat), but a non-bailable warrant was directly issued for her arrest.
“The conduct of the magistrate is completely contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court as regards issuance of non-bailable warrants,” the bench said expressing anguish over the high-handed approach of the magistrate in issuing a non-bailable warrant against Bhagat.
The bench has now directed the registrar (Judicial-I), high court, to enquire into the entire episode relating to the additional chief metropolitan magistrate’s court advancing the date for hearing the case, which was originally scheduled for February 10, but was abruptly listed for hearing on December 15, and the issuance of a non-bailable warrant against the 48-year-old socialite. The registrar has been ordered to submit his report by January 16.
The judges were also irked with the over-zealousness shown by some officers attached to Khar police station in investigating the three offences registered against Bhagat. They termed the police action smacked of high-handedness.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the 48-year-old socialite seeking transfer of three criminal cases registered against her with Khar police station either to the crime branch or any other independent agency. In her petition Bhagat alleged that officers attached to the Khar police station were totally biased against her and were favouring her estranged husband for extraneous reasons and consideration, even going to the extent of creating false records.