Influencing Witnesses, Giving Threats, Fleeing From Justice, Or Obstructing Procedure Of Fair Trial Cannot Be Overlooked While Granting Bail – Supreme Court
A three-judge Bench of CJI NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant, and Justice Hima Kohli has held that the bail can be revoked where the Court has considered irrelevant factors or has ignored relevant available material, that renders the order granting bail legally untenable.
"The gravity of the offence, conduct of the accused and societal impact of an undue indulgence by Court when the investigation is at the threshold, are also amongst a few situations, where a Superior Court can interfere in an order of bail to prevent the miscarriage of justice and to bolster the administration of criminal justice system," the Court observed.
An appeal was preferred by the original complainant against the judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which had granted anticipatory bail to the Respondent-Accused (Mother-in-law of the deceased) who was charged under Sections 304B, 302, and 120B of IPC.
In this case, an FIR was lodged by the father of the deceased accusing the in-laws of the deceased, including the Respondent-Accused of harassing and physically torturing the deceased on the pretext of dowry demands. It was alleged by the Appellant that since the demands of the Respondent-Accused were not met, Respondent administered poison to his daughter, which led to her death.
The Trial Court had denied anticipatory bail to the Respondent and the appeal was dismissed as withdrawn by the High Court. Thereafter, the Respondent-Accused was on the run and was declared an absconder under Section 82 of CrPC.
Upon granting of bail to the Respondent's younger son, she filed two petitions before the High Court and sought the quashing of the order which had declared her as a proclaimed offender and further sought anticipatory bail. This was followed by the grant of interim bail by the Court to the Respondent on the premise that she had joined the investigation and was entitled to seek parity with her younger son who was granted anticipatory bail. Subsequently, by the impugned order, both her applications were allowed by the High Court.
The Apex Court, after considering the contentions of the parties at length, made the following observations –
"It would be fruitful to recapitulate the well-settled legal principle that the cancellation of bail is to be dealt on a different footing in comparison to a proceeding for grant of bail. It is necessary that 'cogent and overwhelming reasons' are present for the cancellation of bail. Conventionally, there can be supervening circumstances which may develop post the grant of bail and are non-conducive to fair trial, making it necessary to cancel the bail."
"This Court has repeatedly viewed that while granting bail, especially anticipatory bail which is per se extraordinary in nature, the possibility of the accused to influence prosecution witnesses, threatening the family members of the deceased, fleeing from justice or creating other impediments in the fair investigation, ought not to be overlooked," the Bench opined.
The Court while rejecting the anticipatory bail of the accused held, "The offence alleged in the instant case is heinous and protrudes our medieval social structure which still wails for reforms despite multiple efforts made by Legislation and Judiciary."
Regarding the issue of seeking parity with the co-accused who was granted an anticipatory bail, the Court held, "It is indubitable that some of the allegations against all the family members are common but there are other specific allegations accusing the Respondent Accused of playing a key role in the alleged offence."
"These facts put her on a starkly different pedestal than the coaccused with whom she seeks parity". Hence, the Court held that High Court had wrongly accorded the benefit of parity in favor of the Respondent-Accused.
The Court concluded its proceedings by setting aside the impugned order of the High Court and directing the Respondent-Accused to surrender within a period of one week.