The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that high courts cannot reject anticipatory bail plea of an accused and, at the same time, grant protection from arrest for a particular period.
The Apex Court said that when such orders are passed, the courts must balance the concerns of the investigating agency, complainant and society at large, as a grant or a rejection of an application seeking bail for a person apprehending arrest has a direct bearing on the fundamental right to life and liberty of an individual.
The three-judge bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose noted that courts are granting protection from arrest to accused for long periods like 90 days, though no case for anticipatory bail is made out. The bench also laid down that a high court could pass such protective orders under Section 482 of the the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which recognises the HC’s inherent power to pass directions in the interest of justice.
The matter pertains to an Allahabad High Court order in which the high court directed the accused to surrender before the trial court and to file a regular bail application within 90 days, while the high court protected the accused from any coercive action during that period. The complainants assailed this order before the apex court, contending that that Section 438 CrPC does not contemplate the grant of any such protection on the dismissal of the application filed by an accused.
The apex court set aside the orders passed by the Allahabad High Court, saying it had granted the relief without assigning any reasons and a period of 90 days cannot in any way be considered to be a reasonable one under the present facts and circumstances.
In granting the relief for a period of 90 days, the court has seemingly not considered the concerns of the investigating agency, complainant or the proviso under Section 438(1) CrPC, which necessitates that the Court pass such an exceptional discretionary protection order for the shortest duration that is reasonably required. A period of 90 days, or three months, cannot in any way be considered to be a reasonable one in the present facts and circumstances. Therefore, the bench set aside the protective relief granted by the High Court to the accused.
The CJI said the HCs and the SC were given powers to grant anticipatory bail to the accused because of the premium that the Constitution places on the right to liberty guaranteed under Article 21. “This provision (section 482) reflects the reality that no law or rule can possibly account for the complexities of life, and the infinite range of circumstances that may arise in the future,” the bench noted. The Court clarified the legal position, as it held in favour of a high court exercising such powers under the CrPC to secure the ends of justice.