Bombay HC refuses pre-arrest bail to judicial magistrate booked in bribery case
- An associate of the judicial magistrate allegedly demanded and accepted a bribe on her behalf for dismissing a criminal complaint against a milk vendor.
The Bombay high court has refused anticipatory bail to a judicial magistrate first class (JMFC) whose associate allegedly demanded and accepted a bribe on her behalf for dismissing a criminal complaint against a milk vendor from Pune district.
"The applicant was occupying a very responsible position. Considering the seriousness of allegations against her, it is necessary that the investigation is carried out thoroughly," said justice Sarang Kotwal while rejecting the anticipatory bail plea of the judicial magistrate, Archana Jatkar on Thursday.
Jatkar was booked in January by Dehu Road police station on the basis of a complaint lodged by Swapnil Shevkar, a milk vendor.
Shevkar said on January 4, 2021 a woman came to his residence and informed his brother that a criminal complaint was filed against Shevkar and it could result in levying some serious charges against him. She gave her mobile number so that Shevkar could contact her.
When Shevkar contacted and later met her, the woman, Jatkar's associate Shubhavari Gaikwad, informed him that she could settle the matter for him, if he agreed to pay Rs. 5 lakh. After negotiations, she reduced the amount to Rs. 3 lakh.
Shevkar lodged a complaint with the anti-corruption bureau (ACB). On January 14, 2021, Shevkar met the woman, who sat in his car and they drove around. At one spot, she accepted the bribe amount and got down from the vehicle. ACB sleuths then arrested Gaikwad, who revealed that she had accepted the bribe amount on behalf of Jatkar, a judicial magistrate first class at Vadgaon Maval in Pune district.
Jatkar had moved the sessions Court at Pune for pre-arrest bail. She approached HC, after the sessions Court rejected her plea on February 23.
The JMFC contended that she was staying alone in Pune along with her 11-month-old baby, as husband is employed in Mumbai. She claimed she was looking for a babysitter for her child and that was how she came in contact with Gaikwad, and she did not know these activities of the woman.
Justice Kotwal refused to accept her claim of innocence after noticing that certain conversations between Jatkar and Gaikwad referred to the case and at least prima facie indicated involvement of the JMFC in the crime.
The high court noted that investigation showed that there were 147 telephonic calls exchanged between the applicant (Jatkar) and Gaikwad.
"These conversations are a strong indication of the applicant’s involvement in the offence," said justice Kotwal while rejecting her pre-arrest bail plea.
"Therefore considering the gravity of offence, order of anticipatory bail cannot be passed in her favour. Her custodial interrogation is necessary to find out the exact nature of relation between both the accused and as to whether in any other case these two have acted similarly," the judge added.