Anticipatory bail (serious matter)

Grant of anticipatory bail in a serious offence

 

In Jai Prakash Singh v. State of Bihar [JT 2012 (3) SC 501], this Court held:

“19- Parameters for grant of anticipatory bail in a serious offence are required to be satisfied and further while granting such relief, the court must record the reasons… Anticipatory bail can be granted only in exceptional circumstances where the court is prima facie of the view that the applicant has falsely been roped in the crime and would not misuse his liberty. (See D.K. Ganesh Babu v. P.T. Manokaran [(2007) 4 SCC 434 : (2007) 2 SCC (Cri) 345] , State of Maharashtra v. Mohd. Sajid Husain Mohd. S. Husain [(2008) 1 SCC 213 : (2008) 1 SCC (Cri) 176] and Union of India v. Padam Narain Aggarwal [(2008) 13 SCC 305 : (2009) 1 SCC (Cri) 1] .)”

In the recent decision of the Constitution Bench in Sushila Aggarwal v. State (NCT of Delhi) [JT 2020 (3) SC 139], the considerations which ought to weigh with the Court in deciding an application for the grant of anticipatory bail have been reiterated. The final conclusions of the Court indicate that:

“92.1… The application seeking anticipatory bail should contain bare essential facts relating to the offence, and why the applicant reasonably apprehends arrest, as well as his side of the story. These are essential for the court which should consider his application, to evaluate the threat or apprehension, its gravity or seriousness and the appropriateness of any condition that may have to be imposed.

92.3…While considering an application (for grant of anticipatory bail) the court has to consider the nature of the offence, the role of the person, the likelihood of his influencing the course of investigation, or tampering with evidence (including intimidating witnesses), likelihood of fleeing justice (such as leaving the country), etc.

92.4. Courts ought to be generally guided by considerations such as the nature and gravity of the offences, the role attributed to the applicant, and the facts of the case, while considering whether to grant anticipatory bail, or refuse it. Whether to grant or not is a matter of discretion; equally whether and if so, what kind of special conditions are to be imposed (or not imposed) are dependent on facts of the case, and subject to the discretion of the court.”

The Constitution Bench has reiterated that the correctness of an order granting bail is subject to assessment by an appellate or superior court and it may be set aside on the ground that the Court granting bail did not consider material facts or crucial circumstances. A two judge Bench of supreme Court, in Kanwar Singh Meena v. State of Rajasthan [JT 2012 (10) SC 262], noted that:

“10. Thus, Section 439 of the Code confers very wide powers on the High Court and the Court of Session regarding bail. But, while granting bail, the High Court and the Sessions Court are guided by the same considerations as other courts. That is to say, the gravity of the crime, the character of the evidence, position and status of the accused with reference to the victim and witnesses, the likelihood of the accused fleeing from justice and repeating the offence, the possibility of his tampering with the witnesses and obstructing the course of justice and such other grounds are required to be taken into consideration. Each criminal case presents its own peculiar factual scenario and, therefore, certain grounds peculiar to a particular case may have to be taken into account by the court. The court has to only opine as to whether there is prima facie case against the accused. The court must not undertake meticulous examination of the evidence collected by the police and comment on the same. Such assessment of evidence and premature comments are likely to deprive the accused of a fair trial. While cancelling the bail under Section 439(2) of the Code, the primary considerations which weigh with the court are whether the accused is likely to tamper with the evidence or interfere or attempt to interfere with the due course of justice or evade the due course of justice. But, that is not all. The High Court or the Sessions Court can cancel the bail even in cases where the order granting bail suffers from serious infirmities resulting in miscarriage of justice. If the court granting bail ignores relevant materials indicating prima facie involvement of the accused or takes into account irrelevant material, which has no relevance to the question of grant of bail to the accused, the High Court or the Sessions Court would be justified in cancelling the bail. Such orders are against the well-recognised principles underlying the power to grant bail. Such orders are legally infirm and vulnerable leading to miscarriage of justice and absence of supervening circumstances such as the propensity of the accused to tamper with the evidence, to flee from justice, etc. would not deter the court from cancelling the bail. The High Court or the Sessions Court is bound to cancel such bail orders particularly when they are passed releasing the accused involved in heinous crimes because they ultimately result in weakening the prosecution case and have adverse impact on the society. Needless to say that though the powers of supreme Court are much wider, supreme Court is equally guided by the above principles in the matter of grant or cancellation of bail.”

(emphasis supplied)

Recently, Apex Court in Myakala Dharmarajam v. The State of Telangana [JT 2020 (2) SC 56] reiterated the above principles and stated:

“9. It is trite law that cancellation of bail can be done in cases where the order granting bail suffers from serious infirmities resulting in miscarriage of justice. If the court granting bail ignores relevant material indicating prima facie involvement of the Accused or takes into account irrelevant material, which has no relevance to the question of grant of bail to the Accused, the High Court or the Sessions Court would be justified in cancelling the bail.”

It is apposite to mention here the distinction between the considerations which guide the grant of anticipatory bail and regular bail. In Pokar Ram v. State of Rajasthan [1985 (2) SCC 597], while setting aside an order granting anticipatory bail, supreme Court observed:

“5. Relevant considerations governing the court’s decision in granting anticipatory bail under Section 438 are materially different from those when an application for bail by a person who is arrested in the course of investigation as also by a person who is convicted and his appeal is pending before the higher court and bail is sought during the pendency of the appeal. Three situations in which the question of granting or refusing to grant bail would arise, materially and substantially differ from each other and the relevant considerations on which the courts would exercise its discretion, one way or the other, are substantially different from each other. This is necessary to be stated because the learned Judge in the High Court unfortunately fell into an error in mixing up all the considerations, as if all the three become relevant in the present situation.

The decision of the Constitution Bench in Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia v. State of Punjab [(1980) 2 SCC 565 : 1980 SCC (Cri) 561] clearly lays down that “the distinction between an ordinary order of bail and an order of anticipatory bail is that whereas the former is granted after arrest and therefore means release from the custody of the police, the latter is granted in anticipation of arrest and is therefore effective at the very moment of arrest”. Unlike a post-arrest order of bail, it is a pre-arrest legal process which directs that if the person in whose favour it is issued is thereafter arrested on the accusation in respect of which the direction is issued, he shall be released on bail. A direction under Section 438 is intended to confer conditional immunity from the touch as envisaged by Section 46(1) or confinement. In para 31, Chandrachud, C.J. clearly demarcated the distinction between the relevant considerations while examining an application for anticipatory bail and an application for bail after arrest in the course of investigation. Says the learned Chief Justice that in regard to anticipatory bail, if the proposed accusation appears to stem not from motives of furthering the ends of justice but from some ulterior motive, the object being to injure and humiliate the applicant by having him arrested, a direction for the release of the applicant on bail in the event of his arrest would generally be made. It was observed that “it cannot be laid down as an inexorable rule that anticipatory bail cannot be granted unless the proposed accusation appears to be actuated by mala fides; and, equally, that anticipatory bail must be granted if there is no fear that the applicant will abscond”. Some of the relevant considerations which govern the discretion, noticed therein are “the nature and seriousness of the proposed charges, the context of the events likely to lead to the making of the charges, a reasonable possibility of the applicant’s presence not being secured at the trial, a reasonable apprehension that witnesses will be tampered with and ‘the larger interests of the public or the State’, are some of the considerations which the court has to keep in mind while deciding an application for anticipatory bail”. A caution was voiced that “in the evaluation of the consideration whether the applicant is likely to abscond, there can be no presumption that the wealthy and the mighty will submit themselves to trial and that the humble and the poor will run away from the course of justice, any more than there can be a presumption that the former are not likely to commit a crime and the latter are more likely to commit it.”


REF: Dr Naresh Kumar Mangla v. Smt. Anita Agarwal & Ors. Etc. [JT 2020 (12) SC]

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