Tight Rope Between Safeguarding Individual Rights And Protecting Public Interest: SC Sets Aside Anticipatory Bail In Land Mafia Case
The Supreme Court while dealing with a Special Leave Petition (SLP) challenging the anticipatory bail granted by the Punjab & Haryana High Court, set aside the order and directed the Commissioner of Police, Gurugram to form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the matter.
The Bench headed by Justice Surya Kant and Justice C.T. Ravikumar held that “The relief of Anticipatory Bail is aimed at safeguarding individual rights. The tight rope we must walk lies in striking a balance between safeguarding individual rights and protecting public interest.”
Talking about the situation of land mafias forging documents and cheating innocent people, the Court said “Land scams in India have been a persistent issue. Organized criminal networks often plan and execute these intricate scams, exploiting vulnerable individuals and communities. These land scams not only result in financial losses for individuals and investors but also disrupt development projects, erode public trust, and hinder socioeconomic progress.”
Advocate Saket Sikri appeared for the Appellants while AAG Bansuri Swaraj represented the State.
The Appellant was a senior citizen who was the owner of a land in Gurugram for over 30 years. The Appellant never sold the land or executed an agreement with anyone. The claim made by the Appellants was that the Sale Deed of February 24, 2002 and the GPA of September 18, 1996 were forged by the Respondents. Following which, the Appellants lodged a First Information Report (FIR) at Police Station (PS), Badshahpur, Gurugram.
Fearing arrest, the Respondent filed for anticipatory bail under Section 438, CrPC before the Additional Sessions Judge, Gurugram. The bail application was dismissed. The Respondent then filed another application for anticipatory bail before the Punjab & Haryana High Court. The High Court allowed the application and granted anticipatory bail and hence, the Appellants approached the Supreme Court challenging the order of the High Court.
The Court while looking into the facts and circumstances of the case, said that “While the right to liberty and presumption of innocence are vital, the court must also consider the gravity of the offence, the impact on society, and the need for a fair and free investigation. It falls upon Courts and the State to carry out their solemn duty to ward off injustice and restore the faith of one and all in the rule of law.”
Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeal, set aside the order of the High Court, and directed the Commissioner of Police to constitute an SIT to investigate into the matter.
Cause Title: Pratibha Manchanda & Anr v. State of Haryana & Anr.