A two-judge Bench of Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud and Justice AS Bopanna while reversing the order of the High Court granting bail, has held that the allegations against all the accused were of grave nature requiring detailed investigation and recovery of weapons in the course of the investigation, which were yet to be completed.
Senior Advocate Mr. Sidharth Luthra along with Advocate Ms. Sakshi Kakkar appeared for the Appellants, Senior Counsel Mr. V.K. Shukla appeared for the State of UP, and Advocate Mr. Sameer Kumar appeared for the Respondents before the Court.
In this case, a total of 7 appeals were preferred before the Supreme Court.
The first set of 3 appeals (Criminal Appeal Nos. 1551/2021, 15541555/2021, and 1553/2021) were preferred by the Complainant against the orders passed by the Single Judge of Allahabad High Court, Lucknow Bench which had enlarged the accused on bail.
The second set of 4 appeals (Criminal Appeal Nos. 1556/2021, 1552/2021, 1558/2021, and 1557/2021) were preferred before the Apex Court by some of the accused that arose against the separate orders passed by the Single Judge of the Allahabad High Court which dismissed the anticipatory bail petitions of the accused.
The Apex Court heard all the appeals together since they pertained to the same incident.
In the first set of appeals, the accused were charged under Sections 147, 148, 149, 307, 302, 188, and 120B IPC and Section 27/30 of the Arms Act. The accused in these proceedings were enlarged on bail by the High Court.
In the second set of appeals, the other accused were charged under Sections 147, 148, 149, 307 IPC. The petitions filed by the accused before the High Court under Section 438 for the grant of anticipatory bail were rejected.
The Appellants contended before the Court in the first set of appeals that the case registered against the accused was for the grave offences which include the offence under Section 302 IPC and provisions of Arms Act, hence the Single Judge ought to have appropriately recorded his satisfaction before exercising the discretion to enlarge on bail. It was further argued that observations of general nature were made and ordered to enlarge the accused on bail.
For the second set of appeals, the Senior Advocate Mr. Luthra argued that the complaint was filed as a counterblast, it was an afterthought and was belatedly filed. The Counsel further contended that injury suffered by one of the victims was a simple one, caused due to hard and blunt object. There was no reason to deny the Appellants the benefit of anticipatory bail as sought, pleaded Mr. Luthra.
While the Respondent-State of UP argued that given the criminal history of the persons involved in the crime and their non-cooperation with the investigation after obtaining interim protection in the appeal seeking anticipatory bail, the bail granted to the accused in the first set of appeals be canceled and the bail applications in the second set of appeal be dismissed.
Regarding First Set of Appeals
The Apex Court noted that in the first set of appeals, the Single Judge took note of the details of the incident and contentions of both the parties however, the order of the Single Judge indicated that he has not analyzed the same to record the satisfaction to enlarge the accused on bail.
"It would not be appropriate for the said persons who were part of one group which had clashed against the other to be in a position to alter the nature of consideration when ultimately a composite investigation to complete the process in FIR No.407 of 2020 would also be necessary," the Bench opined.
Further, the Court observed, "At the outset, when it is noted that Ram Prasad Pandey died due to firearm wound suffered by him and both the FIR No.406 of 2020 and FIR No.407 of 2020 referred to the indiscriminate use of firearm in the clash, the release of the accused in FIR No.406 of 2020 at this juncture was not justified, more particularly in a circumstance where the learned Single Judge has not recorded his satisfaction with regard to the specific details of the case and the reason for which each of the accused was entitled to be enlarged on bail."
Regarding Second Set of Appeals
The Court noted that the allegations made against the accused in the second set of appeals were of grave nature as the accused persons were armed with illegal weapons and due to the previous enmity, they all had come together with the intention to kill the Complainant and his associates.
The Court rejected the contention of Mr. Luthra that the complaint was filed belatedly and lodged as a counterblast and held that there was no truth in the allegations.
Further, the Bench observed that the Appellants could not be granted anticipatory bail due to the following reasons –
Firstly, the delay as alleged in filing the complaint would not be material at this stage since the ultimate reference is to the very same incident dated 08.05.2020.
The allegation in the complaint dated 12.05.2020 is not relating to any other subsequent incident so as to deem it as a complaint filed as being in the nature of counterblast.
The group including the complainant in FIR No.406 of 2020 who are the accused in FIR No.407 of 2020 and are seeking for grant of anticipatory bail were also armed with firearms when they had gone to the said spot where the incident occurred.
"If that be the position, it is too premature at this stage to arrive at any conclusion as to which group was the aggressor and the manner in which the firing had erupted and also the weapons that were used. These are all matters to be looked into during the investigation of the pending complaint and for the purpose of framing charges and the consequent trial.," the Bench held.
The Court also noted, "Therefore, if all these aspects are kept in view, the allegations are of serious nature which would require a detailed investigation and recovery of weapons in the course of investigation which is yet to be completed. In that view, it is not a fit case where the appellants in the second set of appeal need to be protected by grant of anticipatory bail."
The Court held that the accused in the first set of appeals were not entitled to the grant of anticipatory bail and accordingly set aside the judgment of the Single Judge and also in the second set of appeals, the Court held the same with a direction that it would be open for the accused to surrender and seek for regular bail.
In the light of these observations, the orders in the first set of appeals were set aside by the Court and simultaneously granted bail, the second set of appeals was dismissed and further Court allowed the appeals filed against the grant of bail orders.