SUPREME COURT's JUDGEMENT ON ANTICIPATORY BAIL

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Sushila Aggarwal and others vs. State (NCT of Delhi) and another

Recently, a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court cleared the confusion over whether the protection given to a person through anticipatory bail should exist for a fixed period. The judgment was pronounced by a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and SR Bhat. Justices MR Shah and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat penned separate judgments agreeing with each other. Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee and Vineet Saran concurred with the conclusion reached by both the judges.

 The Supreme Court has held that anticipatory bail should not invariably be limited to a fixed period. But if there are any special or peculiar features necessitating the court to limit the tenure of anticipatory bail, it is open for it to do so. 

Reiterating the law laid down by a Constitution Bench of the Court back in 1980 in the case of Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia and others v. State of Punjab (Sibbia case), the Supreme Court has clarified:

  • There is nothing in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to indicate that the grant of pre-arrest/anticipatory bail should be time-bound.

  • However, the concerned court has the discretion to impose conditions for the grant of anticipatory bail, including a limited duration of protection, on a case-to-case basis, depending on the stage at which the application for anticipatory bail is moved.

  • As a normal rule, there should be no such time-limit imposed in granting the pre-arrest protection.

  • The duration of an anticipatory bail order does not normally end when the accused is summoned by the court. However, it is open to the Court to impose additional restrictions if there are peculiar circumstances warranting the same.

ISSUES RAISED IN THE CASE:

  1. Whether the protection granted to a person under Section 438 Cr.P.C. should be limited to a fixed period so as to enable the person to surrender before the Trial Court and seek regular bail?

The protection granted to a person under Section 438 Cr. PC should not invariably be limited to a fixed period; it should inure in favour of the accused without any restriction on time. Normal conditions under Section 437 (3) read with Section 438 (2) should be imposed; if there are specific facts or features in regard to any offence, it is open for the court to impose any appropriate condition (including fixed nature of relief, or its being tied to an event) etc. The Court found that ordinarily, the protection given through anticipatory bail would not automatically come to an end if the person is summoned as an accused in the case by a court. However, if there are special or peculiar circumstances necessitating the same, the court has the power to limit the tenure of anticipatory bail.

  1. Whether the life of anticipatory bail should end at the time and stage when the accused is summoned by the court?

Life or duration of an anticipatory bail order does not end normally at the time and stage when the accused is summoned by the court, or when charges are framed but can continue till the end of the trial. Again, if there are any special or peculiar features necessitating the court to limit the tenure of anticipatory bail, it is open for it to do so. 

GUIDELINES ON GRANT OF ANTICIPATORY BAIL

The Bench also issued the following guidelines on the grant of anticipatory bail-

  • Anticipatory bail applications should be based on concrete facts, not vague or general allegations, relatable to a specific offence.

  • It is advisable that the court, depending on the seriousness of the threat of arrest, issue a notice to the public prosecutor to obtain facts.

  • Nothing in the CrPC compels or obliges a court to impose conditions limiting the grant of anticipatory bail.

  • The need to impose restrictions during the grant of anticipatory bail would have to be judged on a case-to-case basis.

  • Such special or other restrictive conditions may be imposed if the case or cases warrant, but should not be imposed in a routine manner, in all cases.

  • Gravity and nature of alleged offence involved, applicant’s role etc. should guide the court in deciding whether or not to grant anticipatory bail in its discretion.

  • Anticipatory bail granted can (depending on the conduct and behaviour of the accused) continue after filing of the charge sheet till the end of the trial.