Delhi Court convicts two lawyers for confining man in chamber of Patiala House Court & forcing him to sign a promissory note

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Court convicted the lawyers for offences punishable under Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 384 (extortion), 506 (criminal intimidation), and 34 (acts done by several persons under common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. However, they have been acquitted of the charge under Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt)

A Delhi Court has convicted two lawyers for illegally restraining a man inside a chamber in the Patiala House Court complex and forcing him to sign a promissory note under extortion in 2003.

Metropolitan Magistrate (MM) Kapil Gupta of Patiala House Court said that the two lawyers, identified as B.S. Arora and Ajay Srivastava, had coerced the individual into signing a promissory note under the specter of extortion.

The court convicted Arora and Srivastava for offences punishable under Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 384 (extortion), 506 (criminal intimidation), and 34 (acts done by several persons under common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. However, they have been acquitted of the charge under Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt).

It opined, "Prosecution has successfully brought home the guilt of accused B.S. Arora and accused Ajay Srivastava for the offenses punishable u/s 341/384/506(Part I)/34 IPC through the testimonies of examined witnesses and further has established the ingredients of offenses alleged against the accused in the present matter beyond reasonable doubt."

The charges against Arora and Srivastava emanated from an incident in 2003 when they were accused of assaulting complainant Naresh Jindal. The alleged trigger for the assault was Jindal's demand for the return of a Rs 80,000 cheque from Srivastava, which, he claimed, had been provided as payment for services related to a gas agency. The victim was not only physically assaulted but also coerced into signing a promissory note, with his signatures obtained on two blank papers.

The counsel for the accused contended that the cheque was provided to Srivastava by Jindal as a legal fee for Arora, pertaining to a case concerning the death of Jindal's sister-in-law during the opening of a showroom in Noida, where a marble slab had fallen on her.

Upon reviewing the evidence, the court dismissed the assertions made by the accused that the promissory note and the cheque were exchanged on July 26, 2003, in the presence of Deputy Commissioner of Police Dinesh Gupta.

Court observed, "The existence of the promissory note and its form is not in dispute. Perusal of the promissory note reveals that the same has been executed on 01.09.2003, and thus, there is a contradiction in the stand taken by the accused."

Furthermore, the Court rejected suggestions made on behalf of Arora that the promissory note was exchanged outside a courtroom during cross-examination. Similarly, it discarded the claim that the promissory note was handed over inside the courtroom and the subsequent gathering in the lawyers' chamber for tea was devoid of any untoward incident.

"In view of the suggestions put on behalf of the accused, it can be clearly observed that it has been admitted by the accused themselves that the promissory note was given on September 1, 2003, and the complainant had also come to the chamber of accused no. 1 [Arora]", the court said.

Court also noted that the inconsistent positions maintained by the accused rendered their defence unreliable. Consequently, it concluded that the complainant had indeed visited the chamber of the accused lawyers and signed the promissory note on September 1, 2003.

Regarding the dispute over the Rs 80,000 cheque, court referenced findings from a 2011 judgment in a Negotiable Instruments (NI) Act case filed by Srivastava against the complainant's wife. The judge emphasized that the earlier judgment had discredited Srivastava's claim that the cheque constituted payment for Arora's legal fees.

Court maintained that the unchallenged nature of the 2011 judgment rendered it "unconscionable to believe that a person shall issue a promissory note to the promisee, promising to make a payment on the same day." Consequently, it found that the prosecution had successfully demonstrated that the promissory note could not have been intentionally issued to make a payment of an advocate's fees on the same day as the promissory note's issuance.

Court also established that the allegation of extortion was substantiated beyond any reasonable doubt by the prosecution, as it remained uncontroverted by the accused individuals. However, it was unable to find substantial medical documentation to support the alleged physical assault on the complainant, leading to the rejection of the prosecution's claims in this regard.

Court will hear submissions of the accused on the quantum of sentence on October 27, 2023.

Case Title: State v. B.S. Arora & Anr.