Bail in U.P under Article 226

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 146/2014
(arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No. 7439/2013)

Km. Hema Mishra …..Appellant
Vs.
State of U.P. & Ors.….Respondents

J U D G M E N T

A.K.SIKRI,J.

1. I have carefully gone through the judgment authored by my esteemed brother, Justice Radhakrishnan. I entirely agree with the conclusions arrived at by my learned brother in the said judgment. At the same time, I would also like to make some observations pertaining to the powers of High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to grant relief against pre-arrest (commonly called as anticipatory bail), even when Section 438,Cr.P.C. authorizing the Court to grant such a relief is specifically omitted and made inapplicable in so far as State of Uttar Pradesh is concerned. I would like to start with reproducing the following observations in the opinion of my brother, on this aspect which are contained in paragraph 21 of the judgment. It reads as under:

“We may, however, point out that there is unanimity in the view that in spite of the fact that Section 438 has been specifically omitted and made inapplicable in the State of Uttar Pradesh, still a party aggrieved can invoke the jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, being extraordinary jurisdiction and the vastness of the powers naturally impose considerable responsibility in its application. All the same, the High Court has got the power and sometimes duty in appropriate cases to grant reliefs, though it is not possible to pin-point what are the appropriate cases, which we have to leave to the wisdom of the Court exercising powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.”

2. Another aspect which is highlighted in the judgment rendered by Justice Radhakrishnan is that many times in the Writ Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India seeking quashing of the FIR or the charge-sheet, the petitioners pray for interim relief against arrest. While entertaining the Writ Petition the High Court invariably grants such an interim relief. It is rightly pointed out that once the Writ Petition claiming main relief for quashing of FIR or the charge-sheet itself is dismissed, the question of granting further relief after dismissal of the Writ Petition, does not arise. It is so explained in para 22 and 23 of the judgment of my learned brother.

3. I would like to remark that in the absence of any provisions like Section 438 of Cr.P.C. applicable in the State of Uttar Pradesh, there is a tendency on the part of the accused persons, against whom FIR is lodged and/or charge-sheet is filed in the Court to file Writ Petition for quashing of those proceedings so that they are able to get protection against the arrest in the interregnum which is the primary motive for filing such petitions. It is for this reason that invariably after the lodging of FIR, Writ Petition under Article 226 is filed with main prayer to quash those proceedings and to claim interim relief against pre-arrest in the meantime or till the completion of the trial. However, the considerations which have to weigh with the High Court to decide as to whether such proceedings are to be quashed or not are entirely different than that of granting interim protection against the arrest. Since the grounds on which such an FIR or charge sheet can be quashed are limited, once the Writ Petition challenging the validity of FIR or charge-sheet is dismissed, the grant of relief, incidental in nature, against arrest would obviously not arise, even when a justifiable case for grant of anticipatory bail is made out .

4. It is for this reason, we are of the opinion that in appropriate cases the High Court is empowered to entertain the petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India where the main relief itself is against arrest. Obviously, when provisions of Section 438 of Cr.P.C. are not available to the accused persons in the State of Uttar Pradesh, under the normal circumstances such an accused persons would not be entitled to claim such a relief under Art. 226 of the Constitution. It cannot be converted into a second window for the relief which is consciously denied statutorily making it a case of casus omissus. At the same time, as rightly observed in para 21 extracted above, the High Court cannot be completely denuded of its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution, to grant such a relief in appropriate and deserving cases; albeit this power is to be exercised with extreme caution and sparingly in those cases where arrest of a person would lead to total miscarriage of justice. There may be cases where pre-arrest may be entirely unwarranted and lead to disastrous consequences. Whenever the High Court is convinced of such a situation, it would be appropriate to grant the relief against pre-arrest in such cases. What would be those cases will have to be left to the wisdom of the High Court. What is emphasized is that the High Court is not bereft of its powers to grant this relief under Art. 226 of the Constitution.

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A Bench of this Court, headed by the then Chief Justice Y.V.Chandrachud, laid down first principles of granting anticipatory bail in the Gurbaksh Singh v. State of Punjab 1980 Crl.L.J. 417 (P&H), reemphasizing that liberty… – ‘A person who has yet to lose his freedom by being arrested asks for freedom in the event of arrest. That is the stage at which it is imperative to protect his freedom, in so far as one may, and to give full play to the presumption that he is innocent.

5. In Joginder Kumar v. State of U.P. and Others, 1994 Cr L.J. 1981, the Supreme Court observed:

“No arrest can be made because it is lawful for the police officer to do so. The existence of the power to arrest is one thing. The justification for the exercise of it is quite another. The police officer must be able to justify the arrest apart from his power to do so. Arrest and detention in police lock-up of a person can cause incalculable harm to the reputation and self esteem of a person. No arrest can be made in a routine manner on a mere allegation of commission of an offence made against a person. It would be prudent for a police officer in the interest of protection of the constitutional rights of a citizen and perhaps in his own interest that no arrest should be made without a reasonable satisfaction reached after some investigation as to the genuineness of a complaint and a reasonable belief both as to the person’s complicity and even so as to the need to effect arrest.”

6. It is pertinent to explain there may be imminent need to grant protection against pre-arrest. The object of this provision is to relieve a person from being disgraced by trumped up charges so that liberty of the subject is not put in jeopardy on frivolous grounds at the instance of the unscrupulous or irresponsible persons who may be in charge of the prosecution. An order of anticipatory bail does not in any way, directly or indirectly; take away for the police their right to investigate into charges made or to be made against the person released on bail.

7. The purposes for which the provisions of anticipatory bail are made are quite obvious. One of the purposes of the arrest is that the accused should be available to the investigating machinery for further investigation and questioning whenever he is required. Another purpose is that the trial should not be jeopardized and for this purpose the restrictions on the movements of the accused are necessary. The genuineness of the alleged need for police custody has to be examined and it must be balanced against the duty of courts to uphold the dignity of every man and to vigilantly guard the right to liberty without jeopardizing the state objective of maintenance of law and order.

8. I would also like to reproduce certain paragraphs from Kartar Singh and Ors. V. State of Punjab (1994) 3 SCC 569, wherein Justice K.Ramaswamy, speaking for the Court, discussed the importance of life and liberty in the following words.

“The foundation of Indian political and social democracy, as envisioned in the preamble of the Constitution, rests on justice, equality, liberty and fraternity in secular and socialist republic in which every individual has equal opportunity to strive towards excellence and of his dignity of person in an integrated egalitarian Bharat. Right to justice and equality and stated liberties which include freedom of expression, belief and movement are the means for excellence. The right to life with human dignity of person is a fundamental right of every citizen for pursuit of happiness and excellence. Personal freedom is a basic condition for full development of human personality. Art.21 of the Constitution protects right to life which is the most precious right in a civilized society. The trinity i.e. liberty, equality and fraternity always blossoms and enlivens the flower of human dignity. One of the gifts of democracy to mankind is the right to personal liberty. Life and personal freedom are the prized jewels under Art.19 conjointly assured by Art.20(3), 21 and 22 of the Constitution and Art.19 ensures freedom of movement. Liberty aims at freedom not only from arbitrary restraint but also to secure such conditions which are essential for the full development of human personality. Liberty is the essential concomitant for other rights without which a man cannot be at his best. The essence of all civil liberties is to keep alive the freedom of the individual subject to the limitations of social control envisaged in diverse articles in the chapter of Fundamental Rights Part III in harmony with social good envisaged in the Directive Principles in Part IV of the Constitution. Freedom cannot last long unless it is coupled with order. Freedom can never exist without order. Freedom and order may coexist. It is essential that freedom should be exercised under authority and order should be enforced by authority which is vested solely in the executive. Fundamental rights are the means and directive principles are essential ends in a welfare State. The evolution of the State from police State to a welfare State is the ultimate measure and accepted standard of democratic society which is an avowed constitutional mandate. Though one of the main functions of the democratic Government is to safeguard liberty of the individual, unless its exercise is subject to social control, it becomes anti-social or undermines the security of the State. The Indian democracy wedded to rule of law aims not only to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens but also to establish an egalitarian social order. The individual has to grow within the social confines preventing his unsocial or unbridled growth which could be done by reconciling individual liberty with social control. Liberty must be controlled in the interest of the society but the social interest must never be overbearing to justify total deprivation of individual liberty. Liberty cannot stand alone but must be paired with a companion virtue; liberty and morality; liberty and law; liberty and justice; liberty and common good; liberty and responsibility which are concomitants for orderly progress and social stability. Man being a rational individual has to life in harmony with equal rights of others and more differently for the attainment of antithetic desires. This intertwined network is difficult to delineate within defined spheres of conduct within which freedom of action may be confined. Therefore, liberty would not always be an absolute license but must arm itself within the confines of law. In other words, here can be no liberty without social restraint. Liberty, therefore, as a social conception is a right to be assured to all members of a society. Unless restraint is enforced on and accepted by all members of the society, the liberty of some must involve the oppression of others. If liberty be regarded a social order, the problem of establishing liberty must be a problem of organizing restraint which society controls over the individual. Therefore, liberty of each citizen is borne of and must be subordinated to the liberty of the greatest number, in other words common happiness as an end of the society, lest lawlessness and anarchy will tamper social weal and harmony and powerful courses or forces would be at work to undermine social welfare and order. Thus the essence of civil liberty is to keep alive the freedom of the individual subject to the limitation of social control which could be adjusted according to the needs of the dynamic social evolution.

The modem social evolution is the growing need to keep individual to be as free as possible, consistent with his correlative obligation to the society. According to Dr. Ambedkar in his closing speech in the Constituent Assembly, the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity are not to be treated as separate entities but in a trinity. They form the union or trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat the very purpose of democracy. Liberty cannot be divorced from equality. Equality cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can equality and liberty be divorced from fraternity. Without equality, liberty would produce supremacy of law. Equality without liberty would kill individual initiative. Without fraternity, liberty and equality would not become a natural course of things. Courts, as sentinel on the qui vive, therefore, must strike a balance between the changing needs of the society for peaceful transformation with orders and protection of the rights of the citizen.(Para 374)

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9. It was also held in that judgment that the High Courts under Art.226 had the right to entertain writ petitions for quashing of FIR and granting of interim protection from arrest. This position, in the context of contours of Art.226, is stated as follows in the same judgment:

“From this scenario, the question emerges whether the High Court under Art.226 would be right in entertaining proceedings to quash the charge-sheet or to grant bail to a person accused of an offence under the Act or other offences committed during the course of the same transaction exclusively triable by the Designated Court. Nothing is more striking than the failure of law to evolve a consistent jurisdictional doctrine or even elementary principles, if it is subject to conflicting or inconceivable or inconsistent result which lead to uncertainty, incongruity and disbelief in the efficacy of law. The jurisdiction and power of the High Court under Art.226 of the Constitution is undoubtedly constituent power and the High Court has untrammeled powers and jurisdiction to issue any writ or order or direction to any person or authority within its territorial jurisdiction for enforcement of any of the fundamental rights or for any other purpose. The legislature has no power to divest the court of the constituent power engrafted under Art.226. A superior court is deemed to have general jurisdiction and the law presumes that the court has acted within its jurisdiction. This presumption is denied to the inferior courts. The judgment of a superior court unreservedly is conclusive as to all relevant matters thereby decided, while the judgment of the inferior court involving a question of jurisdiction is not final. The superior court, therefore, has jurisdiction to determine its own jurisdiction, may be rightly or wrongly. Therefore, the court in an appropriate proceeding may erroneously exercise jurisdiction. It does not constitute want of jurisdiction, but it impinges upon its propriety in the exercise of the jurisdiction. Want of jurisdiction can be established solely by a superior court and that in practice no decision can be impeached collaterally by an inferior court. However, acts done by a superior court are always deemed valid wherever they are relied upon. The exclusion thereof from the rule of validity is indispensable in its finality. The superior courts, therefore, are the final arbiters of the validity of the acts done not only by other inferior courts or authorities, but also their own decisions. Though they are immune from collateral attack, but to avoid confusion the superior court’s decisions lay down the rules of validity; are not governed by those rules. The valid decision is not only conclusive, it may affect, but it is also conclusive in proceedings where it is sought to be collaterally impeached. However, the term conclusiveness may acquire other specific meanings. It may mean that the finding upon which the decision is founded as distinct or it is the operative part or has to be conclusive or these findings bind only parties on litigated disputes or that the organ which has made the decision is itself precluded from revoking, rescinding or otherwise altering it.”

10. It would be pertinent to mention here that in light of above mentioned statements and cases, the High Court would not be incorrect or acting out of jurisdiction if it exercises its power under Art.226 to issue appropriate writ or direction or order in exceptional cases at the behest of a person accused of an offence triable under the Act or offence jointly triable with the offences under the Act.

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11. It is pertinent to mention that though the High Courts have very wide powers under Art.226, the very vastness of the powers imposes on it the responsibility to use them with circumspection and in accordance with the judicial consideration and well established principles, so much so that while entertaining writ petitions for granting interim protection from arrest, the Court would not go on to the extent of including the provision of anticipatory bail as a blanket provision.

12. Thus, such a power has to be exercised very cautiously keeping in view, at the same time, that the provisions of Article 226 are a devise to advance justice and not to frustrate it. The powers are, therefore, to be exercised to prevent miscarriage of justice and to prevent abuse of process of law by authorities indiscriminately making pre-arrest of the accused persons. In entertaining such a petition under Art.226, the High Court is supposed to balance the two interests. On the one hand, the Court is to ensure that such a power under Art.226 is not to be exercised liberally so as to convert it into Section 438,Cr.P.C. proceedings, keeping in mind that when this provision is specifically omitted in the State of Uttar Pradesh, it cannot be resorted to as to back door entry via Art.226. On the other hand, wherever the High Court finds that in a given case if the protection against pre-arrest is not given, it would amount to gross miscarriage of justice and no case, at all, is made for arrest pending trial, the High Court would be free to grant the relief in the nature of anticipatory bail in exercise of its power under Art. 226 of the Constitution. It is again clarified that this power has to be exercised sparingly in those cases where it is absolutely warranted and justified.

(A.K. SIKRI)
New Delhi,
16th January 2014

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