Trial by WhatsApp in Jharkhand riles SC

Court frames charges via messaging app
Popular among users for its ease and speed, instant messaging service WhatsApp caused raised eyebrows in the Supreme Court this week when it was informed that a criminal case was conducted via the service. The case, involving a former Jharkhand minister Yogendra Sao and his MLA wife Nirmala Devi, saw a lower court judge in Hazaribagh putting the accused on trial by pronouncing the order framing charges against them through a ‘WhatsApp’ call.
Accused in a rioting case of 2016, Mr Sao and Ms. Nirmala were granted bail last year by the Supreme Court which however, imposed a condition that the couple should stay in Bhopal and not enter Jharkhand except for attending court proceedings.
Case diaries
The accused informed the court that the trial judge had on April 19 this year framed charges against them through a ‘WhatsApp’ call despite their objections. A bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and L. N. Rao took serious note of the submissions and said, “What is happening in Jharkhand? This process cannot be allowed, and we cannot allow administration of justice to be brought into disrepute”.
“What kind of a trial is this? Is this a kind of a joke?” the Bench asked the counsel appearing for Jharkhand.
The Bench issued notice to Jharkhand on the plea by both the accused, who have sought transfer of their cases from Hazaribagh to New Delhi, and asked the State to respond within two weeks. Mr. Sao and his wife had in the past led several agitations against the National Thermal Power Corporation in Jharkhand over land acquisition.
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