Supreme Court Explain the Difference in the Phrase ‘Reasons for Arrest’ and ‘Grounds of Arrest’

The Supreme Court on Wednesday explained the difference in the phrase ‘reasons for arrest’ and Grounds of arrest’.

The bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta was dealing with the appeal challenging the order passed by the Delhi High Court.

In this case, in connection with FIR officers of the PS Special Cell, Lodhi Colony, New Delhi, conducted extensive raids on the residential and official premises of the appellant and M/s. PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt. Ltd., where the appellant is the Director. 

This FIR pertains to offences under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860. During the search and seizure operations, numerous documents and digital devices were confiscated. The appellant was arrested but the computerized arrest memo did not include the ‘grounds of arrest’, which is a contentious issue.

The appellant was brought before the Additional Sessions Judge, New Delhi, and remanded to seven days in police custody. The remand proceedings have been criticized by the appellant’s senior counsel, Shri Kapil Sibal, who alleged manipulation and subsequent insertions in the remand order. The appellant challenged the arrest and remand order in the High Court of Delhi. However, the High Court of Delhi dismissed the appeal.

Kapil Sibal, counsel for the appellant submitted that the FIR has been registered purely on conjectures and surmises without there being any substance in the allegations set out in the report. The contents of the FIR which were provided to the appellant at a much later stage discloses a purely fictional story without any fundamental facts or material warranting registration of the FIR. Admittedly, the copy of FIR was neither made available in the public domain nor a copy thereof supplied to the appellant until his arrest and remand which is in complete violation of the fundamental Right to Life and Personal Liberty enshrined in Articles 20, 21 and 22 of the Constitution of India.

Suryaprakash V. Raju, counsel for the respondent submitted that as per the appellant’s version set out in the pleadings filed before the High Court of Delhi, he was actually remanded to the police custody after 7:00 a.m. It was contended that the appellant cannot be heard to urge that he was remanded to police custody in an illegal manner and without the grounds of arrest having been conveyed to him in writing. 

Supreme Court referred to the case of Pankaj Bansal v. Union of India and Others where it was stated that “32. In this regard, we may note that Article 22(1) of the Constitution provides, inter alia, that no person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest. This being the fundamental right guaranteed to the arrested person, the mode of conveying information of the grounds of arrest must necessarily be meaningful so as to serve the intended purpose.”

The bench reiterated that the requirement to communicate the grounds of arrest or the grounds of detention in writing to a person arrested in connection with an offence or a person placed under preventive detention as provided under Articles 22(1) and 22(5) of the Constitution of India is sacrosanct and cannot be breached under any situation. Noncompliance of this constitutional requirement and statutory mandate would lead to the custody or the detention being rendered illegal, as the case may be.

Supreme Court opined that the interpretation given by the Single Judge that the grounds of arrest were conveyed to the accused in writing vide the arrest memo is unacceptable on the face of the record because the arrest memo does not indicate the grounds of arrest being incorporated in the said document. 

The bench observed that the grounds of arrest as conveyed to the Advocate are more or less a narration of facts picked up from the FIR which in itself does not indicate any particular incident or event which gave rise to the alleged offences. However, the law is well settled that the FIR is not an encyclopaedia and is registered just to set the process of criminal justice in motion. The Investigating Officer has the power to investigate the matter and collect all relevant material which would form the basis of filing of charge sheet in the Court concerned.

Supreme Court stated that there is a significant difference in the phrase ‘reasons for arrest’ and ‘grounds of arrest’. The ‘reasons for arrest’ as indicated in the arrest memo are purely formal parameters, viz., to prevent the accused person from committing any further offence; for proper investigation of the offence; to prevent the accused person from causing the evidence of the offence to disappear or tempering with such evidence in any manner; to prevent the arrested person for making inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade him from disclosing such facts to the Court or to the Investigating Officer.

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The bench further noted that the grounds of arrest informed in writing must convey to the arrested accused all basic facts on which he was being arrested so as to provide him an opportunity of defending himself against custodial remand and to seek bail. Thus, the ‘grounds of arrest’ would invariably be personal to the accused and cannot be equated with the ‘reasons of arrest’ which are general in nature. 

Supreme Court concluded that the copy of the remand application in the purported exercise of communication of the grounds of arrest in writing was not provided to the accused-appellant or his counsel before passing of the order of remand dated 4th October, 2023 which vitiates the arrest and subsequent remand of the appellant.

In view of the above, the bench allowed the appeal and released the appellant from custody.

Case Title: Prabir Purkayastha v. State (NCT of Delhi)

Bench: Justices B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta
Case No.: Arising out of SLP(Crl.) NO(S). OF 2024 (D.No. 42896/2023)

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