Supreme Court Emphasizes Judicial Discretion in Anticipatory Bail for Proclaimed Offenders

Supreme Court Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: 03 September 2023 at 16:50 IST

The Supreme Court recently clarified the circumstances under which anticipatory bail can be granted to a proclaimed offender.

This clarification came as a result of a case in which the appellant sought the cancellation of anticipatory bail granted to the respondent by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh.

In this particular case, the respondent faced accusations under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including Sections 147, 148, 149, 323, 325, 341, 342, and 427, with additional charges of Sections 186, 353, and 364 of the IPC being added later.

The appellant’s legal counsel argued that considering the nature of the allegations, the evidence collected, and the fact that the respondent had been declared a proclaimed offender, the grant of anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 was incorrect and not in the public interest.

They contended that there was substantial evidence implicating the respondent and that the same order had been used as a basis to grant anticipatory bail to other co-accused individuals, which they believed was not in the best interest of justice.

On the other hand, the respondent’s legal counsel claimed that the Investigating Agency had unjustly targeted and tried to implicate the respondent. They argued that this was evident from manipulations in the investigation records and that the State’s case against the respondent was primarily based on the similarity of his name to one of the accused.

The Supreme Court, in its deliberation, referred to the case of Mahipal v. Rajesh Kumar alias Polia, emphasizing that the assessment of an order granting bail should focus on whether there was an improper or arbitrary exercise of discretion.

The Court observed that the High Court had erred in dismissing the fact of the respondent being declared a proclaimed offender based solely on averments in the petition without adequately considering the circumstances.

The Supreme Court ruled that the respondent, who had not successfully challenged the order declaring him as a proclaimed offender, should not have sought anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the CrPC.

They concluded that the respondent’s application for anticipatory bail should not have been entertained while he was a proclaimed offender.

The Court also referenced Lavesh v. State (NCT of Delhi) and State of Madhya Pradesh v. Pradeep Sharma, highlighting that a proclaimed offender is generally not entitled to anticipatory bail unless exceptional and rare circumstances exist.

The Court reaffirmed that both the Supreme Court and High Courts, as Constitutional Courts, could consider pleas for anticipatory bail in such cases.

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