Justice Ashok Menon of the Kerala High Court allowed the anticipatory bail application of dubbing artist Bhagyalakshmi and two other women – Diya Sana and Sreelakshmi Arackal in Bhagyalakshmi K. v. State of Kerala (Bail App No. 6686 of 2020).
S. Renjith and K.P. Jayachandran represented the three applicants/petitioners. Public Prosecutor, Director General of Prosecution, Senior Government Pleader Suman Chakravarthy and K. Arjun Venugopal represented the respondents (State and YouTuber Vijay P. Nair)
The court said, “The first applicant (Bhagyalakshmi) claims to be a celebrity of repute and the other applicants claim to be involved in social work. Taking law into their hands would set them as bad example for people to follow. Though I do not approve of vigilantism shown by the applicants in taking law into their hands, I also do not feel it necessary to incarcerate them just for the purpose of giving them a taste of imprisonment as a lesson.”
He added, “The gravity of the offence and the possibility of the applicants fleeing from justice are very important criteria for the granting of anticipatory bail. The applicants are ladies without any criminal antecedents. The fact that the applicants had, soon after the incident appeared before the Police and surrendered the articles which they had allegedly robbed is an indication to the fact that they’re willing to co-operate with the investigation and are not likely to flee from justice.”
The court directed that in the event of their arrest, the petitioners shall be released on bail on execution of bond for Rs. 50,000/- each, will not tamper with evidence and cooperate with the investigation.
The petitioners approached this court under section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure apprehending their arrest for assaulting the respondent Vijay P. Nair for “abusing feminists and reputed women in the state”. It was alleged that he had also made “sly innuendoes against the 1st applicant (Bhagyalakshmi) and others intending to tarnish their reputation.”
On September 26, the petitioners had gone to Vijay P Nair’s office and poured black ink and nettle oil on his face with the intention to humiliate him. They also live-streamed the attack via Facebook Live. Further, they took away his laptop, mobile phone, microphone and headset.
Subsequently, the women were booked under the Indian Penal Code for house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint, uttering any obscene words in or near any public place, voluntarily causing hurt, criminal intimidation, robbery and acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention.
After hearing the submissions made by both sides, the Kerala High Court overturned the decision of the trial court that denied pre arrest bail to the petitioners. Justice Menon said, “The order of rejecting an application for anticipatory bail by the Sessions Court is definitely not binding on the High Court but vice versa may be true.”
It noted that the prosecution had failed to establish that custodial interrogation of the women is essential to the investigation. “The applicants cannot be subjected to custodial interrogation and incarceration merely for the reason that granting them bail would give the wrong message to the public or that it would amount to encouragement of vigilantism or taking law into one’s own hands.”
Accordingly, their petition was allowed.
The order dated November 10, 2020 may be read here: