Criminal Justice Administration Can’t be Reduced to a Mantra: SC Sets Aside All HC Order Granting Bail

On Monday, the Supreme Court set aside an Order of Allahabad High Court granting bail to the accused of Dowry Death.

The court took serious exception of passing a cyclostyled order granting bail without proper application of judicial mind.

The Court remarked that there should be display of some semblance of reasoning for justifying the grant of bail.

Background:

An FIR was registered under Sections 498-A and 304-B of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act 1861. The charge-sheet was submitted on 3 May 2019 for offences alleged under Sections 498-A and 304-B of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 and 4 of thr Dowry Prohibition Act. 

The bail application filed by the first respondent was rejected by the Sessions Judge on 18 June 2019. The High Court was thereafter moved in a bail application under Section 439 of Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.

After recording the rival submissions, the High Court allowed the application, observing thus: 

“Considering the entire facts and circumstances of the case, submissions of learned counsel for the parties and keeping in view the nature of offence, evidence, complicity of accused and without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, the Court is of the view that the applicant has made out a case for bail. The bail application is allowed.”

Appeal to Supreme Court

The Division Bench of Hon’ble Justice DY Chandrachud and Hon’ble Justice MR shah observed:

The order of the High Court granting bail contains absolutely no reasons at all. While it is true that at the time of considering an application for bail the High Court would not be required to launch into a detailed enquiry into the facts which have to be determined in the course of trial, equally an application of mind by the High Court to the rival submissions is necessary. The High Court has merely recorded the submissions and in the extract which we have reproduced earlier proceeded to grant bail without any evaluation of the rival submissions.

The Court further observed:

The sentence which we have extracted earlier contains an omnibus amalgam of 

(i) “the entire facts and circumstances of the case”; 

(ii) “submissions of learned Counsel for the parties”; 

(iii) “the nature of offence”; 

(iv) “evidence”; and

 (v) “complicity of accused”. 

This is followed by an observation that the “applicant has made out a case for bail”, “without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case”. This does not constitute the kind of reasoning which is expected of a judicial order.

An order without reasons is fundamentally contrary to the norms which guide the judicial process. The administration of criminal justice by the High Court cannot be reduced to a mantra containing a recitation of general observations. 

That there has been a judicious application of mind by the judge who is deciding an application under Section 439 of the CrPC must emerge from the quality of the reasoning which is embodied in the order granting bail. While the reasons may be brief, it is the quality of the reasons which matters the most. 

We are constrained to make these observations because the reasons indicated in the judgment of the High Court in this case are becoming increasingly familiar in matters which come to this Court. It is time that such a practice is discontinued and that the reasons in support of orders granting bail comport with a judicial process which brings credibility to the administration of criminal justice.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court set aside the Order of High Court granting bail.

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