The Supreme Court today termed it "shocking" and "strange" that the police had obtained a non-bailable warrant (NBW) against a man who was later sent to custody in connection with an alleged cheating case in Maharashtra despite specific interim order of the Apex Court that he shall not be arrested.

A vacation bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Krishna Murari observed that the top court had on May 7 last year issued notice on a plea filed by the man and had said that in the meantime, he shall not be arrested in connection with the FIR registered at Latur in Maharashtra.

The Apex Court directed that the petitioner, if not required in any other case, be released today itself and the compliance be reported without fail within the day.

It is rather intriguing to notice that despite specific interim order of this court that the petitioner shall not be arrested in connection with the FIR the prosecution obtained non-bailable warrants against the petitioner and when he appeared before the court, the judicial magistrate first class by his order dated June 24, 2022, observed that interim protection from arrest came to an end after six weeks from the order of this Court, the Bench said in its order.

The Apex Court was hearing an application filed by the petitioner pointing out his arrest and seeking orders for his release.

The Bench noted that the period of six weeks seems to have been "borrowed" concerning the returnable date of the notice issued by the Apex Court in its May 7 last year order.

If what has been observed by the magistrate in the order dated June 24, 2022, is the only reason for the detention of the petitioner in judicial custody, the bona fide of the prosecuting agency and the understanding of the magistrate about the operation of the order of this court become the matters of serious concern, the Bench said.

However, at present, we are not making any other comment in the matter and grant counsel for the state some time to file a response to this application, it said and posted the matter for further hearing on July 7.

The Bench also said that its order be communicated by mail to the magistrate and its copy be supplied to the counsel for the state for appropriate instructions immediately.

During the hearing, the bench expressed its displeasure as to how the prosecuting agency obtained the NBW and how the magistrate passed the order.

It crosses the limits of even surprising and shocking also, the bench orally observed, adding, we have to educate our magistrate also. It questions your bona fide also. How you obtain a non-bailable warrant? the Bench told the lawyer appearing for the state.

The Apex Court observed that the detention of the petitioner is directly contrary to and in defiance of the Apex Court's order. I will convey your lordship's displeasure, the state's counsel said.

The Bench observed, "this is something quite strange".

The petitioner had last year filed a plea in the apex court against an order passed by the Bombay High Court rejecting his petition seeking anticipatory bail in a case registered for the alleged offences, including cheating, under the Indian Penal Code.

On May 7 last year, the Apex Court, while hearing his plea, passed an order which said: Issue notice, returnable in six weeks. Petitioner is at liberty to serve the standing counsel for the state of Maharashtra. In the meantime, the petitioner shall not be arrested in connection with FIR.

Click here to read/download Order

With PTI inputs