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Anticipatory Bail Can Be Rejected On Grounds Of Conduct Of The Respondent-Accused: SC [READ JUDGMENT]

In Vipan Kumar Dhir v. The State of Punjab & Anr., the apex court has observed that a superior can interfere in a bail order to prevent miscarriage of justice and to strengthen the administration of the criminal justice system

By: Priscilla Niangdeihkim

The Anticipatory Bail seeker is a Respondent-Accused, named as one of the accused in an FIR lodged by the Complainant, the father of the deceased, in a dowry death case. The Respondent-Accused was the Mother-in-Law of the deceased. The deceased died of unnatural death under suspicious circumstances on 02­.10.­2017. The complainant alleged that his daughter was physically tortured and harassed for unfulfilled dowry demands.

The Station House Officer (SHO) of the concerned Police Station issued a warrant for the arrest of Respondent-Accused on grounds of non-cooperation with the investigation.

The arrest warrant could not be executed as the Respondent-Accused remained absconding for more than two years after being declared a proclaimed offender on 23.04.2018 under Section 82 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The Respondent-Accused continued to evade her arrest till her son, the brother-in-law of the deceased was granted anticipatory bail on 22.10.2019. Taking advantage of this event, the Respondent-Accused presented the same as a material change in circumstances. Two petitions were filed for quashing the order that declared her as a ‘proclaimed offender’ before the High Court, seeking to quash the order that declared her a ‘proclaimed offender’ and sought anticipatory bail. 

The Respondent-Accused was granted anticipatory bail by the High Court on grounds that she cooperated with the investigation and even signed an undertaking that she would be present each day for the trial. The High Court also believed that the Respondent-Accused was entitled to seek parity with her son, the brother-in-law of the deceased.

The Complainant contended that the High Court has committed a grave error of law in over­looking the well-established principles which guide courts to exercise their discretion in the matter of granting anticipatory bail.   

The Supreme Court stated that “Bail can also be revoked where the court has considered irrelevant factors or has ignored relevant material available on record which renders the order granting bail legally untenable. The gravity of the offence, the conduct of the accused and societal impact of an undue indulgence by the 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 further stated that it has repeatedly viewed that while granting bail, especially anticipatory bail which is per se extraordinary, 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. It was said that “Broadly speaking, each case has its unique factual scenario which holds the key for adjudication of bail matters including cancellation thereof. 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.”

The bench ordered the Respondent Accused to surrender before the Trial Court within one week.

The court was adamant that the observations made were confined to the current proceedings and would not be construed as an opinion on the merits of the case.

The Court also clarified that after the surrender of Respondent-Accused, the Respondent-Accused will be free to seek regular bail before the concerned Trial Court and any such prayer shall be decided as per law, without being influenced by the current order.

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