The Bombay High court sought the assistance of the Centre and the Maharashtra government to decide which proceedings are to be video recorded under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. As per Section 15A(10) of the Atrocities Act, all proceedings relating to offences shall be video recorded.
A single-judge bench of Justice Sadhana Jadhav, on August 9, 2019, referred the matter to a division bench to decide on the issue while hearing bail pleas of three accused doctors - Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehare, and Ankita Khandelwal - accused of abetting the suicide of their junior Dr. Payal Tadvi in 2019.
Word 'proceedings' not defined in SC/ST Act
Justice Jadhav noted that the Act did not mention what is to be considered as proceedings, and that the word “proceedings” was not defined. The judge opined that the hearing of the bail application does not amount to a proceeding as contemplated under section 15A subsection 10 of the said Act, and therefore, this provision would not be applicable.
However, Judge Jadhav said, “Since there are no rules framed, there is no specific direction for implementation as to whether it would mean only video recording or video/audio recording.” Hence, she referred the issue to be decided by a division bench.
'Issue raises important questions'
A division bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhaya and Sarang Kotwal, on October 26, requested the Additional Solicitor General of India and the Advocate General of Maharashtra to address the court on the issue as it raises important questions.
The bench also appointed advocate Mayur Khandeparkar as amicus curiae (friend of the court) and kept the matter for hearing on December 15.
Tadvi, a second-year postgraduate medical student attached to the BMC-run BYL Nair hospital in Mumbai, committed suicide on May 22, 2019, in her hostel room after allegedly leaving behind a suicide note blaming the three seniors. Tadvi's family had alleged that the trio had harassed and ragged her and had also made casteist slurs against her. The trio were arrested and released on bail.