What are the guiding factors for exercising the power to granting bail

Essentially, supreme Court is required to analyse whether there was a valid exercise of the power conferred by Section 439 of the CrPC to grant bail. The power to grant bail under Section 439 is of a wide amplitude. But it is well settled that though the grant of bail involves the exercise of the discretionary power of the court, it has to be exercised in a judicious manner and not as a matter of course. In Ram Govind Upadhyay v Sudarshan Singh(2002) 3 SCC 598), Justice Umesh Banerjee, speaking for a two judge Bench of this Court, laid down the factors that must guide the exercise of the power to grant bail in the following terms: “3. Grant of bail though being a discretionary order – but, however, calls for exercise of such a discretion in a judicious manner and not as a matter of course. Order for bail bereft of any cogent reason cannot be sustained. Needless to record, however, that the grant of bail is dependent upon the contextual facts of the matter being dealt with by the court and facts, however, do always vary from case to case…The nature of the offence is one of the basic considerations for the grant of bail – more heinous is the crime, the greater is the chance of rejection of the bail, though, however, dependent on the factual matrix of the matter. 4. Apart from the above, certain other which may be attributed to be relevant considerations may also be noticed at this juncture, though however, the same are only illustrative and not exhaustive, neither there can be any.

The considerations being: (a) While granting bail the court has to keep in mind not only the nature of the accusations, but the severity of the punishment, if the accusation entails a conviction and the nature of evidence in support of the accusations. (b) Reasonable apprehensions of the witnesses being tampered with or the apprehension of there being a threat for the complainant should also weigh with the court in the matter of grant of bail. (c) While it is not expected to have the entire evidence establishing the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt but there ought always to be a prima facie satisfaction of the court in support of the charge. (d) Frivolity in prosecution should always be considered and it is only the element of genuineness that shall have to be considered in the matter of grant of bail, and in the event of there being some doubt as to the genuineness of the prosecution, in the normal course of events, the accused is entitled to an order of bail.

The determination of whether a case is fit for the grant of bail involves the balancing of numerous factors, among which the nature of the offence, the severity of the punishment and aprima facie view of the involvement of the accused are important.No straight jacket formula exists for courts to assess an application for the grant or rejection of bail. At the stage of assessing whether a case is fit for the grant of bail, the court is not required to enter into a detailed analysis of the evidence on record to establish beyond reasonable doubt the commission of the crime by the accused. That is a matter for trial. However, the Court is required to examine whether there is a prima facie or reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed the offence and on a balance of the considerations involved, the continued custody of the accused sub-serves the purpose of the criminal justice system. Where bail has been granted by a lower court, an appellate court must be slow to interfere and ought to be guided by the principles set out for the exercise of the power to set aside bail.

The principles that guide this Court in assessing the correctness of an order passed by the High Court granting bail were succinctly laid down by supreme Court in Prasanta Kumar Sarkar v Ashis Chatterjee(2010) 14 SCC 496). In that case, the accused was facing trial for an offence punishable under Section 302 of the Penal Code. Several bail applications filed by the accused were dismissed by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate. The High Court in turn allowed the bail application filed by the accused. Setting aside the order of the High Court, Justice DK Jain, speaking for a two judge Bench of this Court held:-

9.It is trite that this Court does not, normally, interfere with an order passed by the High Court granting or rejecting bail to the accused. However, it is equally incumbent upon the High Court to exercise its discretion judiciously, cautiously and strictly in compliance with the basic principles laid down in a plethora of decisions of this Court on the point.

It is well settled that, among other circumstances, the factors to be borne in mind while considering an application for bail are:

(i) whether there is any prima facie or reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed the offence; (ii) nature and gravity of the accusation; (iii) severity of the punishment in the event of conviction; (iv) danger of the accused absconding or fleeing, if released on bail; (v) character, behaviour, means, position and standing of the accused; (vi) likelihood of the offence being repeated; (vii) reasonable apprehension of the witnesses being influenced; and (viii) danger, of course, of justice being thwarted by grant of bail. …

12. It is manifest that if the High Court does not advert to these relevant considerations and mechanically grants bail, the said order would suffer from the vice of non-application of mind, rendering it to be illegal.

The provision for an accused to be released on bail touches upon the liberty of an individual. It is for this reason that this Court does not ordinarily interfere with an order of the High Court granting bail. However, where the discretion of the High Court to grant bail has been exercised without the due application of mind or in contravention of the directions of this Court, such an order granting bail is liable to be set aside. The Court is required to factor, amongst other things, a prima facie view that the accused had committed the offence, the nature and gravity of the offence and the likelihood of the accused obstructing the proceedings of the trial in any manner or evading the course of justice. The provision for being released on bail draws an appropriate balance between public interest in the administration of justice and the protection of individual liberty pending adjudication of the case.

However, the grant of bail is to be secured within the bounds of the law and in compliance with the conditions laid down by this Court. It is for this reason that a court must balance numerous factors that guide the exercise of the discretionary power to grant bail on a case by case basis. Inherent in this determination is whether, on an analysis of the record, it appears that there is a prima facie or reasonable cause to believe that the accused had committed the crime. It is not relevant at this stage for the court to examine in detail the evidence on record to come to a conclusive finding. The decision of Supreme Court in Prasanta has been consistently followed by this Court in Ash Mohammad v Shiv Raj Singh,(2012) 9 SCC 446) Ranjit Singh v State of Madhya Pradesh(2013) 16 SCC 797), Neeru Yadav v State of U.P.(2014) 16 SCC 508, Virupakshappa Gouda v State of Karnataka(2017) 5 SCC 406, and State of Orissa v Mahimananda Mishra(2018) 10 SCC 516.

The considerations that guide the power of an appellate court in assessing the correctness of an order granting bail stand on a different footing from an assessment of an application for the cancellation of bail. The correctness of an order granting bail is tested on the anvil of whether there was an improper or arbitrary exercise of the discretion in the grant of bail. The test is whether the order granting bail is perverse, illegal or unjustified. On the other hand, an application for cancellation of bail is generally examined on the anvil of the existence of supervening circumstances or violations of the conditions of bail by a person to whom bail has been granted. In Neeru Yadav v State of Uttar Pradesh (2015) 15 SCC 422 the accused was granted bail by the High Court. In an appeal against the order of the High Court, a two judge Bench of supreme Court surveyed the precedent on the principles that guide the grant of bail. Justice Dipak Misra (as the learned Chief Justice then was) held:-

It is well settled in law that cancellation of bail after it is granted because the accused has misconducted himself or of some supervening circumstances warranting such cancellation have occurred is in a different compartment altogether than an order granting bail which is unjustified, illegal and perverse. If in a case, the relevant factors which should have been taken into consideration while dealing with the application for bail and have not been taken note of bail or it is founded on irrelevant considerations, indisputably the superior court can set aside the order of such a grant of bail. Such a case belongs to a different category and is in a separate realm. While dealing with a case of second nature, the Court does not dwell upon the violation of conditions by the accused or the supervening circumstances that have happened subsequently. It, on the contrary, delves into the justifiability and the soundness of the order passed by the Court.

Where a court considering an application for bail fails to consider relevant factors, an appellate court may justifiably set aside the order granting bail. An appellate court is thus required to consider whether the order granting bail suffers from a non-application of mind or is not borne out from a prima facie view of the evidence on record. It is thus necessary for this Court to assess whether, on the basis of the evidentiary record, there existed a prima facie or reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed the crime, also taking into account the seriousness of the crime and the severity of the punishment. The order of the High Court in the present case, in so far as it is relevant reads:-

2. Counsel for the petitioner submits that the petitioner has been falsely implicated in this matter.

Counsel further submits that, the deceased was driving his motorcycle, which got slipped on a sharp turn, due to which he received injuries on various parts of body including ante-mortem head injuries on account of which he died. Counsel further submits that the challan has already been presented in the court and conclusion of trial may take long time. 3. Learned Public Prosecutor and counsel for the complainant have opposed the bail application. 4. Considering the contentions put-forth by the counsel for the petitioner and taking into account the facts and circumstances of the case and without expressing opinion on the merits of the case, this court deems it just and proper to enlarge the petitioner on bail.

It is a sound exercise of judicial discipline for an order granting or rejecting bail to record the reasons which have weighed with the court for the exercise of its discretionary power.

Merely recording -having perused the record and -on the facts and circumstances of the case does not sub-serve the purpose of a reasoned judicial order. It is a fundamental premise of open justice, to which our judicial system is committed, that factors which have weighed in the mind of the judge in the rejection or the grant of bail are recorded in the order passed. Open justice is premised on the notion that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. The duty of judges to give reasoned decisions lies at the heart of this commitment. Questions of the grant of bail concern both liberty of individuals undergoing criminal prosecution as well as the interests of the criminal justice system in ensuring that those who commit crimes are not afforded the opportunity to obstruct justice. Judges are duty bound to explain the basis on which they have arrived at a conclusion.

24. In Kalyan Chandra Sarkar v Rajesh Ranjan(2004) 7 SCC 528, a two judge Bench of Apex Court was required to assess the correctness of a decision of a High Court enlarging the accused on bail. Justice Santosh Hegde, speaking for the Court, discussed the law on the grant of bail in non-bailable offences and held:-

11. The law in regard to grant or refusal of bail is very well settled. The court granting bail should exercise its discretion in a judicious manner and not as a matter of course. Though at the stage of granting bail a detailed examination of evidence and elaborate documentation of the merit of the case need not be undertaken, there is a need to indicate in such orders reasons for prima facie concluding why bail was being granted particularly where the accused is charged of having committed a serious offence. Any order devoid of such reasons would suffer from non-application of mind.”

(Emphasis supplied).

Where an order refusing or granting bail does not furnish the reasons that inform the decision, there is a presumption of the non-application of mind which may require the intervention of this Court. Where an earlier application for bail has been rejected, there is a higher burden on the appellate court to furnish specific reasons as to why bail should be granted.


Mahipal Vs. Rajesh Kumar @ Polia & Anr.

[Criminal Appeal No. 1843 of 2019 @ SLP (Crl.) No. 6339 of 2019]

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