Read Judgement: Sahab Singh @ Sabbi v. State of Haryana 

 Vivek Gupta

Chandigarh, July 6, 2021: Dismissing a petition seeking pre-arrest bail for a co-accused in a narcotics case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has stated that pre-arrest bail is a discretionary equitable relief which is not to be granted in routine but in exceptional circumstances.

Pre-arrest bail “is meant to save the innocent persons from harassment and inconvenience and not to shield the criminals from arrest and custodial interrogation,” observed Justice H S Madaan.

The petition for pre-arrest bail was filed by Sahab Singh, also known as Sabbi, hailing from Haryana’s Kurukshetra district, after he was named as an accused in a narcotics case filed on March 23, 2021 for offences under Section 21 of the NDPS Act, registered at Kurukshetra University police station in Kurukshetra.

As per the FIR, the main accused Satnam Singh was arrested for possessing 217 grams of heroin/smack. Satnam Singh, a brother of the present petitioner Sahab Singh, disclosed during investigation that he along with his brother Sahab Singh were involved in drug peddling,

Apprehending his arrest in this case, Sahab Singh approached the Court of Sessions at Kurukshetra, seeking grant of pre-arrest bail.

His application, which was assigned to the Additional Sessions Judge, Kurukshetra, was dismissed on May 12, 2021. Therefore, he knocked at the door of the High Court, praying for grant of pre-arrest bail. 

His request was, however, opposed by the state counsel.

Dismissing the petition, the high court held that custodial interrogation of the petitioner is required to find out the details of his involvement in drug peddling. 

The HC stated that as informed by the state counsel, the petitioner is involved in six more criminal cases. Although he is shown to have been acquitted  in five cases, it does not give a clean chit to him, the HC observed.

“As per the basic principles of criminal law applicable in India, the prosecution is required to prove its charge against the accused beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt and this burden of proof on the prosecution never shifts and rather it remains stationary on it. The benefit of doubt goes to the accused,” Justice Madaan said.

“Many a times, though considerable incriminating evidence is there against the culprit, an accused manages to earn an acquittal. But the fact remains that the accused was booked in a criminal case of particular nature, on investigation sufficient evidence was found by the Investigating Agency to connect him with the crime/offence, he was sent up to face trial, though the trial ended in his acquittal.

“Therefore, involvement of the present petitioner in 6 criminal cases, 3 of them under NDPS Act, 2 under various provisions of IPC and under the Arms Act, points out towards his shady past and in one case of the NDPS Act, bearing FIR No. 45 dated 31.1.2010, for offence under Section 15 of the NDPS act, Police Station Thanesar, he is shown to have been convicted as well,” stated the judge.

The High Court added that a person with such type of a record is certainly not entitled to be granted the protective cover of pre-arrest bail. It has to be taken note that his real brother Satnam Singh had been found in possession of contraband, who on interrogation had disclosed involvement of the present petitioner in drug peddling.

“This statement can certainly be taken into consideration for providing lead in the investigation and past criminal record of the petitioner also points out towards his indulging in drug peddling,” the High Court stated.

The Judge further observed, “Pre-arrest bail is a discretionary equitable relief, which is not to be granted in routine, but in exceptional circumstances. It is meant to save the innocent persons from harassment and inconvenience and not to shield the criminals from arrest and custodial interrogation.”

The HC held that custodial interrogation of the petitioner is required to find out the details of his involvement in drug peddling. As such the petition lacks merit and is dismissed accordingly.

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