Sharad Manohar, J.
1. This is a revision application filed by the de facto complainant against the order of acquittal passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Nanded acquitting the accused/respondent No. 1 (hereinafter 'the accused') of offences under sections 363 and 366 of the Indian Penal Code with which he was charged at the instance of the present petitioner (who will be referred to hereafter as 'the complainant').
2. Most of the facts, out of which the present petition arises, are admitted. Some of them, however, are not matters of admission as such. I will state the relevant facts and when they are not admitted facts, I will give indication to that effect in the judgment.
Shamshadbegum, who is alleged to have been kidnapped by the accused in the night between 23rd May, 1982, and 24th May, 1982, at about 1.30 a.m. was admittedly not less than 15 1/2 years at that time. This fact about kidnapping became known to the complainant not immediately but after 6 a.m. in the morning when he woke up and found his daughter Shamshadbegum missing from the house. He made enquiry with some people-including a Rickshaw Driver by name Kishan about her. Kishan told him that at about 1.30 a.m. in the morning the accused and Shamshadbegum went to Bafna Garage in his (Kishan's) Rickshaw and that there they took a Matador for going to Akola. The complainant, therefore, lodged complaint at the Vazirabad Police Station. In the complaint he stated that the accused was in his employment till the time of Diwali when he was dismissed by the complainant. The complainant carries on the business of a Press and conducts a lodge called 'Apsara Lodge'. The complaint was filed by the complainant as late as at 4. p.m. on 24.5.1982. In the complaint the complainant made an allegation not only that his daughter was kidnapped by the accused but also that his daughter had taken away with her a sum of Rs. 10,000/- while she was kidnapped by the accused. The complaint as regards kidnapping was filed against the present accused under sections 366 and 363 of the I.P.C. whereas the complaint as regards the theft was filed against both the present accused as well as his daughter Shamshadbegum under section 380 of the Indian Penal Code.
On 2-8-1982 the accused and Shamshadbegum made two applications to the Sessions Court at Nanded for anticipatory bail. Application No. 119/1982 was filed by the present accused whereas the application No. 120/82 was filed by the girl Shamshadbegum. Notices in respect of the said applications were issued by the Sessions Court and a letter in that behalf was received by the P.S.I. Pathak who was conducting the investigation probably at Vazirabad Police Station on 13-8-1982. The Sessions Court heard the Police as well as the complainant as regards the application for anticipatory bail filed by both the persons and on 5-8-1982 anticipatory bail was granted by the Court to both of them. I am told that Writ Petition No. 85-A of 1982 was filed by the complainant to this Court for cancellation of the anticipatory bail; but he did not succeed and on 17-8-1982 both the persons, the present accused and the girl, were in fact released by the Police on bail, as granted by the Sessions Court.
It may be mentioned here that while granting the bail the Sessions Court had put certain conditions as regards stay of both the applicants. On 12-8-1982 both of them made an application to the Sessions Court for relaxation of that condition and that application was allowed by the Court after hearing both sides. On 18-8-1982, the complainant made an application to the Sessions Court for custody of the girl Shamshadbegum. The Court issued notice to Shamshadbegum requiring her presence in the Court on 27-8-1982. On 27-8-1982 Shamshadbegum appeared in the Court and contested the said application. On the same date the Police made an application to the Court for discharge of Shamshadbegum of the offence under section 380. This application was made by the Police because the complainant had made a statement before the Police that his allegation of theft of Rs. 10,000/- was not a true statement and that he had made the same in order to goad the Police to bring her back from the accused. Pursuant to this, the Court passed an order on the same day reversing the orders relating to custody of Shamshadbegum till 30-8-1982.
3. The subsequent events are partly matters of admission and partly matters of dispute. It is the contention of the accused that on 27-8-1982 when he and Shamshadbegum were returning to their residence in a Rickshaw, they were physically assaulted by some Gundas engaged by the complainant. The accused was beaten by them and Shamshadbegum was forcibly removed by them to the place of the complainant. The accused made complaint at the Police Station but the Police took no action. Hence the accused made an application to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Nanded, under section 97 of the Code, requesting the Court for production of Shamshadbegum. The Court issued notice to the complainant to show cause why search warrant should not be issued against the complainant. The complainant was also ordered by the said order to produce Shamshadbegum to the Court on 30-8-1982. On 30-8-1982 neither Shamshadbegum was produced before the Court nor anyone appeared in connection with the said proceeding. The proceeding was, therefore, adjourned by the Court to 6-9-1982. On 6-9-1982, Shamshadbegum was produced by the complainant before the Court. He also filed an affidavit denying all the allegations made by the accused. Shamshadbegum was examined by the Court for a limited purpose viz. to ascertain whether she had been forcibly removed by the complainant from the custody of the accused. In her statement, it is alleged, she stated that her age was 19 years. It is the contention of the accused before me that the complainant compelled the girl to make a statement before the Court that she was not kidnapped by or on behalf of her father out of the custody of the accused. These allegations are denied by the complainant. But evidently the girl's said statement was accepted by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate and he dismissed the petition filed by the accused under section 97 of the Code.
On 26-11-1982 chargesheet was filed against the accused by the police for offences under sections 363 and 366 of the I.P.C. and the Court framed charge in that behalf against the accused on 26-4-1983.
In the proceedings, P.W. No. 1 and 2 were examined on 4-7-1983. Shamshadbegum also brought before the Court for giving evidence. She entered the witness box and her examination in chief proceeded to some extent; but it is the contention of the prosecution that during her examination-in-chief she fainted and hence the proceedings had to be kept in abeyance. Shamshadbegum thereafter was allowed to go to her father's place but she never stepped into witness box thereafter. The Court gave directions to the prosecution to keep her present in the Court for evidence but the directions were of no avail so much so that the Court was required to issue a bailable warrant against Shamshadbegum for ensuring her presence in the Court. The warrants went on being returned un-served.
4. Astonishingly enough, on 6-9-1983, quite an abnormal application came to be presented before the Court. It was signed by Shamshadbegum herself and was countersigned by some Advocate on her behalf. It is at Exh. 35 in these proceedings. By the said application Shamshadbegum herself requested the Court that she should be dropped from the array of the witnesses. As to under what provision of law a witness could come before the Court stating the Court that he or she should not be examined is something upon which no light could be thrown by any of the Advocates before me. Mr. Shelke, the learned Additional Public Prosecutor, plainly stated that such an application is unheard of. It may be that a witness can request the Court not to be required to answer certain questions. But the request from the witness that she should be dropped altogether is a strange request. Whatever that may be the fact remains that such an application was made by Shamshadbegum. The learned Chief Judicial Magistrate rightly rejected the said application. Not only that he rejected it but he also issued another warrant, now a non-bailable warrant requiring her presence on 8-9-1983.
5. Significantly enough, even this warrant was returned un-served on 8-9-1983. In those circumstances, the Public Prosecutor made an application for a third non-bailable warrant. On 9-9-1983 the said application was rejected. On the same date accused made an application for examination of Shamshadbegum as his own witness. That application was granted and summons was issued against her, returnable on 12-9-1983. On 12-9-1983 that summons also come back un-served. On that day, therefore, the Investigating Officer was examined by the prosecution as P.W. No. 8 and the statement of the accused was recorded under section 313. The judgment was pronounced by the Court on 13-9-1983. The Court held that in the peculiar facts of the case, for proving the question as to whether the accused had 'taken' or 'entitled' Shamshadbegum from the custody of the complainant, the most important evidence was that of the girl herself. The Court noticed that she had been deliberately kept away from the Court by the complainant. The Court found that the other evidence led by the prosecution for establishing the above essential ingredient of the offence of kidnapping was not at all sufficient for vindicating the prosecution case. The Court, therefore, proceeded to pass an order of acquittal in favour of the accused.
6. In this revision application filed by the complainant (because the State refused to file any appeal against acquittal having regard to the gross facts mentioned above), most of the above mentioned salient facts have been suppressed. The petition goes to contain only this much that the girl was of the age less than 18 years, that she was removed by the accused from the custody of her lawful guardian/complainant, and that, hence, the offence of kidnapping was complete. I have to examine legal position in this respect.
7. Mr. Shafiuddin, learned Advocate appearing for the accused rightly invited my attention to a number of authorities which have taken the view that the mere fact that the girl was below the age of 18 years and happens to be out of the custody of her lawful guardian and is found to be living or moving with some other person does not mean that she was 'taken' or 'enticed' by the other person from the lawful custody of her guardian. 'Taking' postulates some active role being played by the kidnapper. If the girl is of the age of discretion and if she goes out of the custody of her lawful guardian of her own accord and out of her own desire and starts living with some other person, it cannot be said that it is the other person who has 'taken' her away or enticed her away from out of the lawful custody of her original guardian; for in such cases it may be that the person accused of kidnapping her might have given to her co-operation for effecting a successful escape from the custody of her guardian. But ultimately it will be a question of extent of role played by the accused. If the accused has played major role and if the girl as such has played a completely passive role and has merely acquiesced in the act of being taken away by the accused, it will most probably mean that the positive role is that of accused and hence he has committed an offence under section 363. But if the girl if of an age of discretion and if it is she who has herself played a positive role in this case of inviting the accused to take her away, of going out of the house of her own accord and of joining the accused at the place outside the house of her guardian then it may not be possible for the Court to hold that the accused is guilty of the offence of 'taking' or 'enticing' the girl out of the custody of her lawful guardian.
8. In fact this question is no longer res integra. In : 1965CriLJ33 S. Varadarajan v. State of Madras, it is held by the Supreme Court that 'taking' or 'enticing' away a minor out of the keeping of a lawful guardian is an essential ingredient of the offence of kidnapping. It is further held that even where the minor girl is kept by her father at the house of his relative, she still continues to be in the lawful guardianship of the former. But the Supreme Court further held as follows :
'But when the girl (who though a minor had attained the age of discretion and is on the verge of attaining majority and is a senior college student) from the house of the relative of the father where she is kept, herself telephones the accused to meet her at a certain place, and goes there to meet him and finding him waiting with his car gets into that car of her own accord, and the accused takes her to various places and ultimately to the Sub-Registrar's Office where they get an agreement to marry registered, and there is no suggestion that this was done by force of blandishment or anything like that on the part of the accused but it is clear from the evidence that the insistence of marriage came from her side, the accused by complying with her wishes can by no stretch of imagination be said to have 'taken' her out of the keeping of her lawful guardianship, that is, the father.
The fact of her accompanying the accused all along is quite consistent with her own desire to be the wife of the accused in which the desire of accompanying him wherever he went is of course implicit. Under these circumstances no inference can be drawn that the accused is guilty of taking away the girl out of the keeping of her father. She has willingly accompanied and the law does not cast upon him the duty of taking her back to her father's house or even of telling her not to accompany him.'
The Supreme Court further held in that case, as follows :
'There is a distinction between 'taking' and allowing a minor to accompany a person. The two expressions are not synonymous though it cannot be laid down that in no conceivable circumstances can the two be regarding as meaning the same thing for the purpose of section 361. Where the minor leaves her father's protection knowing and having capacity to know the full import of what she is doing, voluntarily joins the accused person, the accused cannot be said to have taken her away from the keeping of her lawful guardian. Something more has to be shown in a case of this kind and that is some kind of inducement held out by the accused person or an active participation by him in the formation of the intention of the minor to leave the house of the guardian.'
In : AIR1957Cal589 Biswanath Ghosh v. The State, it was held by the Court that:
'A minor may not be competent to give her consent to her taking, but a minor is certainly competent to leave the protection of her guardian of his or her own accord. Therefore, it is immaterial whether the girl alleged to be kidnapped was a minor or not in so far as her leaving the house of her own accord is concerned.'
The same view has been taken by me, following the judgment of the Supreme Court in Varadrajan's case, in Lawrence Kanandas v. The State of Maharashtra, (1983)89 CLJ 1819, identical view has been taken by Jahagirdar, J., reported in 1983 CLC 204.
9. In the instant case it is not seriously disputed before me at all that the girl Shamshadbegum had attained the age of discretion although she was not above 18 years. The fact that she was of 151/2 years of age is disputed by the accused. On behalf of the accused my attention was invited to the fact that in her affidavit dated 6-9-1982 Shamshadbegum has mentioned her age to be 19 years. But there is some evidence on record to show that she was of 151/2 years of age and I am prepared to proceed on the assumption that her age was 151/2 years only. But it is also an admitted fact that she had left her education and she was in fact assisting her father in looking after the lodge; she was sitting on the counter, which means that she was looking after some of his financial dealings and was taking part in the management of his business. If that was so, it cannot be said that she had not attained the age of discretion. In fact the fact that she had attained the age of discretion was not seriously disputed before me by Mr. Khadar at all.
10. So far as the actual incident of alleged kidnapping is concerned, the only evidence led by the prosecution is that in the night in question the accused and the girl went away by Rickshaw. On behalf of accused, a letter written by herself was produced. In that letter she has expressed her feelings and employed many phrases of endearment and has exhorted the accused to take her away. Evidently, she has expressed deep love for him. The original letter is not there on record in the technical sense because it could be proved by the accused only through the girl. Hence the said letter has not been taken into consideration by me. But the accused has referred to that letter. The girl was partly examined by the prosecution but subsequently she was deliberately kept back from the Court.
11. In this connection I may mention here that when this revision application came up for hearing before me I felt that this is a case which involves more a human question than the legal question. This case has more ramifications which cannot be mentioned in this judgment; but having regard to the entire position and having regard to the fact that the entire life was there before the young girl and that the same was likely to be ruined on account of the age of some persons, I asked whether it would be possible for the complainant to keep the girl present in the Court so that I could verify her wishes. The complainant was present in the Court personally, he informed the Court through his Advocate that he would be ready to bring the girl before the Court provided sufficient time was given to him in that behalf. At his request time was given to him as much as he required and the proceeding was kept for hearing on 22nd July, 1985. But when the petition came up for hearing on that day, the Counsel for the petitioner made it clear that not only that the girl was not kept present in the Court by the complainant, but further that he had no intention to keep her present in the Court at all. It is significant that it was not the case that he was unable to keep her present. His contention was that it was not in the interest of the girl to keep her present in the Court.
The facts, mentioned above, also leave no room for doubt that it is the complainant who has gone even to the extent of flouting the orders of the Court for the purpose of keeping back the evidence of Shamshad begum from the Court. No effort is spared by him in suppressing the evidence of Shamshad begum herself. If this is the position, nothing but strongest kind of adverse inference against the complainant in particular and prosecution in general must follow.
12. What has to be noted is that the only person who could have stated whether she went out of the custody of her guardian of her own accord or whether she was taken away by the accused was Shamshadbegum. It is not as if that she is of such tender age that she cannot express her feelings and desire before the Court. If she was a girl of seven years it would be futile for the Court to expect her to be of the age of discretion; but if the girl was of the age 151/2 years old on the date of incident and of even more age on the date on which her evidence was to be recorded, her evidence would play the major role in deciding the crucial question. The contention of the petitioner is that the 'taking' or 'enticing' by the accused can be held to be proved by other evidence as well. This is a puerile contention. None of the witnesses has seen the accused taking her away. The evidence of the Rickshawallah only shows that both the accused and Shamshadbegum were taken by him in the Rickshaw together. His evidence does not show that the accused brought her out of the custody of her father. If Shamshadbegum, of her own accord, came out of her house and accompanied the accused in the Rickshaw, it would not be a case of 'taking' her away on the part of the accused. The position, thus is that---
(a) There exists no evidence of the taking or enticing by the accused.
(b) The prosecution kept back the evidence of Shamshadbegum which, for ought one knows, might be in favour of the accused.
It was in these circumstances that the Sessions Court has found it impossible to accept the prosecution contention relating to the offence amputated to the accused. Evidently, this is the very reason that the State Government has found it impossible to find any fault with the judgment of the Sessions Court which accounts for the fact that it has chosen not to file any appeal against the order of acquittal. I too find it impossible to find any fault with the said judgment.
The revision application, therefore, fails. The rule earlier issued is discharged.