A Constitution Bench comprising of Hon’ble Justice Arun Mishra, Hon’ble Justice MR Shah, Hon’ble Justice Indira Banerjee, Hon’ble Justice Vineet Saran, Hon’ble Justice S Ravindra Bhat of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Sushila Aggarwal and others v. State (NCT of Delhi) and another (SLP (Criminal) 7281 of 2017 laid down the law with respect to tenure of protection granted under Section 438 Cr.P.C.
The Bench formulated following questions:
“(1) Whether the protection granted to a person under Section 438 Cr.P.C. should be limited to a fixed period so as to enable the person to surrender before the Trial Court and seek regular bail.
(2) Whether the life of an anticipatory bail should end at the time and stage when the accused is summoned by the court.”
The Bench held:
“(1) Regarding Question No. 1, this court holds that the protection granted to a person under Section 438 Cr. PC should not invariably be limited to a fixed period; it should inure in favour of the accused without any restriction on time. Normal conditions under Section 437 (3) read with Section 438 (2) should be imposed; if there are specific facts or features in regard to any offence, it is open for the court to impose any appropriate condition (including fixed nature of relief, or its being tied to an event) etc.
(2) As regards the second question referred to this court, it is held that the life or duration of an anticipatory bail order does not end normally at the time and stage when the accused is summoned by the court, or when charges are framed, but can continue till the end of the trial. Again, if there are any special or peculiar features necessitating the court to limit the tenure of anticipatory bail, it is open for it to do so.”
The Court also issued follwoing guidelines to be kept in mind while dealing with an application under Section 438 Cr.P.C.
(1) Consistent with the judgment in Shri Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia and others v. State of Punjab, when a person complains of apprehension of arrest and approaches for order, the application should be based on concrete facts (and not vague or general allegations) relatable to one or other specific offence. 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. It is not essential that an application should be moved only after an FIR is filed; it can be moved earlier, so long as the facts are clear and there is reasonable basis for apprehending arrest.
(2) It may be advisable for the court, which is approached with an application under Section 438, depending on the seriousness of the threat (of arrest) to issue notice to the public prosecutor and obtain facts, even while granting limited interim anticipatory bail.
(3)Nothing in Section 438 Cr. PC, compels or obliges courts to impose conditions limiting relief in terms of time, or upon filing of FIR, or recording of statement of any witness, by the police, during investigation or inquiry, etc. 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. The courts would be justified – and ought to impose conditions spelt out in Section 437 (3), Cr. PC [by virtue of Section 438 (2)]. The need to impose other restrictive conditions, would have to be judged on a case by case basis, and depending upon the materials produced by the state or the investigating agency. Such special or other restrictive conditions may be imposed if the case or cases warrant, but should not be imposed in a routine manner, in all cases. Likewise, conditions which limit the grant of anticipatory bail may be granted, if they are required in the facts of any case or cases; however, such limiting conditions may not be invariably imposed.
(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. (5)Anticipatory bail granted can, depending on the conduct and behavior of the accused, continue after filing of the charge sheet till end of trial.
(6)An order of anticipatory bail should not be “blanket” in the sense that it should not enable the accused to commit further offences and claim relief of indefinite protection from arrest. It should be confined to the offence or incident, for which apprehension of arrest is sought, in relation to a specific incident. It cannot operate in respect of a future incident that involves commission of an offence.
(7)An order of anticipatory bail does not in any manner limit or restrict the rights or duties of the police or investigating agency, to investigate into the charges against the person who seeks and is granted pre-arrest bail.
(8) The observations in Sibbia regarding “limited custody” or “deemed custody” to facilitate the requirements of the investigative authority, would be sufficient for the purpose of fulfilling the provisions of Section 27, in the event of recovery of an article, or discovery of a fact, which is relatable to a statement made during such event (i.e deemed custody). In such event, there is no question (or necessity) of asking the accused to separately surrender and seek regular bail. Sibbia (supra) had observed that “if and when the occasion arises, it may be possible for the prosecution to claim the benefit of Section 27 of the Evidence Act in regard to a discovery of facts made in pursuance of information supplied by a person released on bail by invoking the principle stated by this Court in State of U.P. v Deoman Upadhyaya.”
(9) It is open to the police or the investigating agency to move the court concerned, which grants anticipatory bail, for a direction under Section 439 (2) to arrest the accused, in the event of violation of any term, such as absconding, noncooperating during investigation, evasion, intimidation or inducement to witnesses with a view to influence outcome of the investigation or trial, etc.
(10) The court referred to in para (9) above is the court which grants anticipatory bail, in the first instance, according to prevailing authorities.
(11) The correctness of an order granting bail, can be considered by the appellate or superior court at the behest of the state or investigating agency, and set aside on the ground that the court granting it did not consider material facts or crucial circumstances. This does not amount to “cancellation” in terms of Section 439 (2), Cr. PC.
(12) The observations in Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre v. State of Maharashtra & Ors (and other similar judgments) that no restrictive conditions at all can be imposed, while granting anticipatory bail are hereby overruled. Likewise, the decision in Salauddin Abdulsamad Shaikh v. State of Maharashtra and subsequent decisions (including K.L. Verma v. State & Anr; Sunita Devi v. State of Bihar & Anr; Adri Dharan Das v. State of West Bengal; Nirmal Jeet Kaur v. State of M.P. & Anr; HDFC Bank Limited v. J.J. Mannan; Satpal Singh v. the State of Punjab and Naresh Kumar Yadav v Ravindra Kumar) which lay down such restrictive conditions, or terms limiting the grant of anticipatory bail, to a period of time are hereby overruled.”