SRINAGAR: In a recent judgment, the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, on September 15, 2023 has ruled in favor of a petitioner seeking the removal of a “Verification of Character and Antecedents Certificate” that labeled him as a history sheeter.
The High Court ruled that labeling a person as a ‘history sheeter’ solely based on multiple first information reports (FIRs) filed against them in the past is not justified.
Justice MA Chowdhary explained that creating a history sheet should not be a mechanical process. There must be reasonable evidence indicating that the individual is “habitually addicted” to committing crimes and information regarding any convictions related to the alleged crimes.
“The discretion of the authorities should be exercised in accordance with the principles of reason and justice, not personal opinion; according to the law, not whimsy. It should not be arbitrarily vague or fanciful but rather legal and systematic, and it should be exercised within the limits expected of an honest and capable individual fulfilling their role,” the Court said.
The Court’s decision came in response to a petition challenging the issuance of a ‘Verification of Character and Antecedents Certificate’ by a Sub-Divisional Police officer in Mahore, which classified the petitioner as a history sheeter.
Upon examination, the Court found that the history sheet had been opened against the petitioner based solely on the registration of five cases over an eight-year period. The judge concluded that this did not align with relevant police regulations.
“The creation of the history sheet against the petitioner violates his fundamental right as enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution,” the Court declared.
The petitioner alleged that various politically motivated, baseless, and manipulated cases had been filed against him. He also pointed out that he had been acquitted in four out of the five cases, with the remaining case being dropped during the investigation.
Therefore, the petitioner’s counsel argued that the police’s characterization of him as a ‘history sheeter’ and their surveillance of him were unwarranted.
Government authorities, including the police, argued that the history sheet had been opened in accordance with rule 703 of the Police Rules, 1960. However, the Court disagreed with their position.
“Considering that the petitioner had faced five cases between 2009 and 2018, with four resulting in acquittals and one not being proven during the investigation, it cannot be concluded that the petitioner is inclined towards criminal patterns or is a habitual offender,” the Court stated.
The judge stressed that the authority to open history sheets against individuals should be exercised with care and responsibility due to its significant implications.
“Labeling someone as a history sheeter tarnishes their reputation in society compared to others. It is important to remember that every individual desires to live with dignity and should not be condemned without justification. Furthermore, the social isolation of individuals labeled as history sheeted is not uncommon in our society. Therefore, the opening or maintenance of history sheets, which intrude on a person’s right to privacy, must strictly adhere to the parameters set out in police regulations, with the intended goal in mind,” the Court noted.
Consequently, the Court granted the petitioner’s challenge, and his history sheet was ordered to be removed from the records of the relevant police station.
Senior Advocate CM Koul, along with advocate AR Bhat, represented the petitioner, while Government Advocate Mohd Irfan Inqlabi represented the government and police authorities.