Read Order: IMRAN Vs. MOHAMMED MUSTHAFA & ANR 

Mansimran Kaur 

New Delhi, April 23, 2022: While considering an appeal challenging the impugned judgment of the Karnataka High Court, the Supreme Court has observed that bail when granted can always be revoked if the relevant material on record, gravity of the offence or its societal impact have not been considered by the lower court. In such instances, where bail is granted in a mechanical manner, the order granting bail is liable to be set aside.

The Larger Bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Hima Kohli also opined that  the lower Courts shall take into consideration the settled principles of law reiterated time and again in the precedents to adjudicate upon such matters. 

The present appeal was preferred against the  judgements  and orders of the High Court of Karnataka dated February 8, 2021 and October 19, 2020, wherein the Court approved the applications seeking anticipatory bail  of two accused persons.

Facts in brief for the perusal of the appeal were that the appellant (complainant) and one Badrul Muneer were  attacked by ten people in pursuance to a conspiracy plotted between  first accused and the others with the  common intention of killing Badrul Muneer to further the feeling of enmity. 

Initially an FIR was registered under Sections 143, 147, 148, 341, 307, 302 , 395 IPC read with Section 149 of IPC. However post investigation, Sections 114, 109, 120B of IPC were also added in the charge sheet.  The said FIR was filed against ten individuals as being accused of committing offences under the above stated Sections. 

It was the case of the prosecution that the first accusedpossessing the feeling of enmity against Bradul Maneer conspired with all other accused with the common objective of murdering him. To accomplish the same, ten accused individuals attacked the appellant , Badrul Maneer and one Hiyaz with soda bottles and stones and eventually murdered the deceased Abdul Lathif, the father of the appellant. 

Thereafter, the eighth accused filed a regular bail application which was rejected by the Sessions Court. By this time, the investigation was also completed and a charge sheet was filed against all accused considering all the material on record, from testimony of the witnesses to medical opinion and FSL report. Pursuance to the same, the sixth accused also filed an application seeking anticipatory bail before the Sessions Court, however the same was rejected .  Aggrieved by the rejection of their applications, both accused preferred applications before the High Court and the same were allowed through  impugned judgments and orders dated February 8, 2021 and October  19,2020. 

The Court while approving the application was of the view that since other co- accused were also given the benefit of bail, therefore the accused in their respective petitions should also be granted the same relief. 

However, it was  pertinent to note, that the High Court through its judgment dated August 26, 2021 canceled bails granted to all other accused. This cancellation order was also upheld by the Apex Court through its order dated October 20, 2021. Moreover , the regular bail granted to the prime accused(first accused) granted by the High Court was also canceled by the Top Court by its order dated January 11, 2022. 

The present appeal was preferred against the impugned judgment of the High Court granting bail to the sixth and eighth accused. The appellant contended that High Court erred in approving the bail applications and failed to consider factors such as gravity of offence, eye -witnesses and other material on record. It was further contended that the order was not passed in a cogent manner and further the release of both the accused would create perilous circumstances for the prosecution witnesses and might tamper with the same.  Reliance was placed to the judgment of this Court in Ram Govind Upadhyay Vs. Sudarshan Singh and Others, wherein it was observed that grant of bail, though discretionary, calls for exercise of  such discretion in a judicious manner. 

From the side of the eighth accused, it was contended that he had no participation in the alleged offences and his name was added to the FIR in pursuance to statement made by the appellant under Section 161 of Cr.P.C. It was further contended that there should be cogent and overwhelming circumstances present for issuing an order of  cancellation of bail. 

The Court  observed that the cancellation of bail was subject to disrupting circumstances which might render it  difficult to hold  a fair trial. Reliance was placed on the judgment of this Court in Vipan Kumar Dhir Vs. State of Punjab and Anr, wherein it was held that 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. 

Another case of this Court in Daulat Ram and Others Vs. State of Haryana was cited, wherein it was observed that bail once granted, it should not be cancelled in a mechanical manner without considering whether any supervening circumstances have rendered it no longer conducive to a fair trial to allow the accused to retain his freedom by enjoying the concession of bail during the trial. 

Further the case of Prasanta Kumar Sarkar Vs. Ashis Chatterjee and Anr was referred to wherein it was held that the factors to be borne in mind while considering an application for bail are: whether there is any prima facie or reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed the offence; nature and gravity of the accusation; severity of the punishment in the event of conviction; danger of the accused absconding or fleeing, if released on bail; character, behaviour, means, position and standing of the accused; (vi) likelihood of the offence being repeated; reasonable apprehension of the witnesses being influenced; and danger, of course, of justice being thwarted by grant of bail.

Therefore, in the light of the cases cited above and the aforesaid observations, the Top Court observed that a bail granted by a lower Court can be cancelled when certain cogent circumstances come up or circumstances can vitiate the conduction of a fair trial come up after the grant of bail. It was further observed that there is  no straight- jacket while dealing with such subject matters and are to be decided on a case to case basis. However, it was also noted that there are settled principles of law that are to be considered by the lower Courts while granting bail. 

The Court remarked, “Thus, while considering cancellation of bail already granted by a lower court, would indeed require significant scrutiny at the instance of superior court, however, bail when granted can always be revoked if the relevant material on record, gravity of the offence or its societal impact have not been considered by the lower court.”

In the instant case, the Apex Court observed that the High Court granted bail to the two accused on the presumption that there were no prima-facie  materials on record available against them and no overt-act had been attributed against them. However, the Court noted that the content of the chargesheet and the testimony of the eye witnesses on record vividly represented that the accused persons in pursuance to the conspiracy plotted with first accused assaulted  the appellant and others. It was further noted that the deceased, indeed was chased down by all the said accused and murdered. 

In addition to this, the statement of all 15 witnesses stated the participation of the two respondents-accused in commission of the alleged offences. Thus, taking into consideration all the accusations made and the evidence on record, the Apex Court observed that the High Court certainly erred in approving the bail applications of both the accused and failed to consider and apply the settled principles of law reiterated by the precedents stated above. 

Accordingly, the impugned judgements and orders of the High Court were set aside . Further directions were issued to the respondents- accused to surrender before the Trial Court within a period of two weeks from the date of this order, failing which they shall be taken to police custody.

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