28 May 2121

High Courts can grant protection to the accused while dismissing anticipatory bail plea in exceptional circumstances - Supreme Court of India

Case : Nathu Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. Criminal Appeal No. 522 of 2021 [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No. 2096 with 2021]

Court : Supreme Court of India

Bench : Chief Justice of India N. V. Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Aniruddha Bose

Decided on : 28 May 2121

Relevant Statutes

Section 437(3), 438, 438(1), 438(2), 438(3). 482 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

Section 34 of Dowry Prohibition act 1961

Section 34, 304B, 307, 498A, 504 of Indian Penal Code, 1860

Article 21 and 142 of the Constitution of India

Brief Facts & Procedural History

1. In the first instance, the appellant's daughter, Nathu Singh, married respondent no. 2. After 7 years (approx.) of marriage, she died in her matrimonial residence under mysterious circumstances, prompting the complainant to file FIR No. 07/2021 at police station Masuri, Ghaziabad, under Sections 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, as well as Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, against the defendants' nos. 2 to 5.

2. In the second instance, the appellant's brother and the latter's two kids were allegedly attacked by the respondents in that case because of a land encroachment issue between the parties. The two sons were assaulted on their critical organs, with one of them suffering a skull fracture and spending a week in a coma. On the other hand, the other had lacerations on his skull. Under Sections 307, 504, and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 the complainant filed FIR No. 371/20 at police station Thana Bhawan, Shamili.

3. During the investigations, the respondents in both cases petitioned the High Court seeking protection from arrest under Section 438, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. While dismissing the respondents' anticipatory bail motion, the High Court of Judicature in Allahabad gave them 90 days to surrender before the Trial Court and seek regular bail, as well as protection from coercion during that time. The complainants in both cases have filed an appeal with us, claiming that they were wronged by the grant of such relief.

4. The complainants appeal in the Honourable Supreme Court of India challenging the judgment.

The Issue of the Case

Whether the impugned judgment passed by the Hugh Court of Judicature at Allahabad dated 28 January 2021 and 8 February 2021 valid?

The Observations of the Court

1. Referring to the case of Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 565, provision 438(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 cannot be interpreted as a limitation on the Court's competence.

2. Honourable Supreme Court of India observes that if the proviso to Section 438(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 does not prohibit the Court from granting extra protection to the applicant, the question of under what statute the Court may give relief to an applicant after dismissing their anticipatory bail application remains unanswered. It is evident that when it comes to the High Court, such a power exists. Without delving into the question of whether Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 itself provides for such a power, as it is not essential to do so in the current instance, it is clear that such a power exists. The High Court's inherent power to issue directions to accomplish the objectives of justice is specifically recognized in Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. This clause recognizes that no law or regulation can account for life's complexity, as well as the limitless variety of events that may emerge in the future.

3. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that they are unconcerned about the situations that courts encounter daily when dealing with anticipatory bail applications. Even though the Court is not inclined to give anticipatory bail to an accused, there may be instances where the High Court believes it is essential to safeguard the person who is about to be arrested for some time until they surrender to the Trial Court owing to extraordinary circumstances.

4. Honourable Supreme court of India also observes that the Court must balance the concerns of the investigative agency, complainant, and society at large with the applicant's concerns/interests, taking into consideration the legislative system under Section 438, of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 notably the proviso to Section 438(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. As a result, such an order must be precisely tailored to safeguard the applicant's interests while also taking into account the concerns of the investigating body. Such a command must be well-thought-out.

5. Honourable Supreme Court of India observes that the judgment doesn’t meet the standards and gave reasons as follows:

a. Following the denial of the anticipatory bail motion, the High Court awarded the respondents the impugned relief without providing any reasons, based on the nature and seriousness of the offence.

b. In granting relief for 90 days, the Court appears to have overlooked the concerns of the investigating agency, the complainant, or the proviso under Section 438(1), of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 which requires the Court to issue an exceptional discretionary protection order for the shortest period that is reasonably required. In the current facts and circumstances, a term of 90 days, or three months, can in no way be regarded as reasonable.

6. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that the respondents are not eligible for pre-arrest bail and cannot be detained for an extended period. They are free to travel without fear of coercion throughout the specified period. As a result, the High Court made a grave mistake in granting the respondents accused such protection. A directive like this by the High Court goes beyond its judicial authority and amounts to judicial generosity, which the Courts do not have.

The Decision Held by the Court

1. Honourable Supreme Court of India set aside the High Court's ruling to the extent of providing the respondents-­accused protection for 90 days, leaving the Investigating Agency free to proceed with the case in line with the law and conclude the investigation. If the respondents-accused have been placed in judicial custody in the meanwhile, the competent Court will rule on their application(s) for normal bail or any request for their police remand made by the Investigating Officer, without regard to the foregoing remarks.

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