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Anticipatory Bail Once Granted Does Not Automatically End With Filing Of Chargesheet: SC

 

In a practical, prudent, pleasant and powerful judgment titled Dr Rajesh Pratap Giri vs. State of U.P. & Anr. in Criminal Appeal Nos. 272-273 of 2021 (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) Nos. 693-694 of 2020 delivered recently on March 5, 2021, the Supreme Court has rightly, reasonably and remarkably reiterated that the anticipatory bail once granted does not automatically end on the filing of the chargesheet. In this case, we see that the Allahabad High Court, on an application made by the complainant had held that the anticipatory bail granted to the accused by the Trial Court came to an end with the filing of a chargesheet and directed him to surrender and apply for regular bail. But this was reversed by the Apex Court. Rightly so!

To start with, this notable judgment delivered by a three Judge Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Aniruddha Bose sets the ball rolling by first and foremost pointing out in para 2 after granting leave in para 1 that, “The present Criminal Appeals by way of Special Leave arise out of the impugned orders dated 11.12.2019 and 20.12.2019 passed by the Allahabad High Court. By order dated 11.12.2019, the High Court, on an application made by the complainant-respondent no. 2, indicated that the anticipatory bail granted to the appellant-accused by the Trial Court vide order dated 21.10.2019 had come to an end with the filing of a charge-sheet, and directed him to surrender and apply for regular bail. The appellant subsequently filed an application for recall/modification of the order dated 11.12.2019, passed by the High Court, which was dismissed by the second impugned order dated 20.12.2019.”

Of course, it is then stated in para 3 that, “Heard learned counsel for the appellant, learned counsel appearing on behalf of respondent No.1 – state and the learned counsel appearing on behalf of respondent No. 2 – complainant and carefully perused the material placed on record.”

On the one hand, it is stated by the Bench in para 4 that, “The learned counsel for the appellant submits that the High Court erred in stating that the anticipatory bail granted to the appellant by the Trial Court came to an end as the chargesheet had been filed. The learned counsel relied on the recent Five Judge Bench decision of this Court in Sushila Aggarwal and Ors. v. State (NCT of Delhi) and Anr., (2020) 5 SCC 1 to submit that there was no principle of law which required that anticipatory bail once granted automatically comes to an end on the filing of the chargesheet.”

On the other hand, it is then stated by the Bench in para 5 that, “While the learned counsel for the State conceded that the law on this point was authoritatively decided by the judgment of this Court in Sushila Aggarwal (supra), he submitted that the same was pronounced subsequent to the impugned orders passed by the High Court. The learned counsel further submitted that after the grant of anticipatory bail the appellant had not appeared before the Trial Court. The counsel for the complainant also reiterated the same.”

Most significantly, the Bench then quite remarkably makes it a point to mention in para 6 that, “The issue involved in the present case, as to whether anticipatory bail once granted, lapses or comes to an end on the filing of a chargesheet has been decided by this Court, in the case of Sushila Aggarwal (supra). Ravindra Bhat, J., in his concurring opinion holds as follows:

“77.3. In these circumstances, the mere fact that an accused is given relief under Section 438 at one stage, per se does not mean that upon the filing of a chargesheet, he is necessarily to surrender or/and apply for regular bail. The analogy to “deemed bail” under Section 167(2) with anticipatory bail leads this Court to conclude that the mere subsequent event of the filing of a chargesheet cannot compel the accused to surrender and seek regular bail. As a matter of fact, interestingly, if indeed, if a chargesheet is filed where the accused is on anticipatory bail, the normal implication would be that there was no occasion for the investigating agency or the police to require his custody, because there would have been nothing in his behaviour requiring such a step. In other words, an accused, who is granted anticipatory bail would continue to be at liberty when the chargesheet is filed, the natural implication is that there is no occasion for a direction by the court that he be arrested and further that he had cooperated with the investigation.””

Equally significant is that it is then unambiguously pointed out further in para 7 that, “The same is reiterated in the section headed final conclusions wherein the Court has laid down certain principles on the basis of the two concurring opinions in the following words:

“91.2. As regards the second question referred to this Court, it is held that the 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.””

As a corollary, the Bench then holds in para 8 that, “In view of the above, we are of the opinion that the High Court wrongly held that the anticipatory bail granted to the appellant by the Trial Court vide order dated 21.10.2019 had come to an end with the filing of the charge-sheet. We therefore set aside the impugned orders passed by the High Court and restore the anticipatory bail granted to the appellant by the Trial Court vide order dated 21.10.2019.”

For the sake of clarity, the Bench then clarifies in para 9 that, “ With respect to the submission of the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the State, as also the complainant, that the appellant is not appearing before the trial court, we reiterate that it is always open to the parties to move an application before the concerned Trial Court for appropriate orders regarding the cancellation of anticipatory bail granted to the appellant.”

Now coming to the concluding paras. It is stated in para 10 that, “The appeals stand disposed of accordingly.” Finally, the Bench then observes in the last para 11 that, “As a sequel to the above, pending interlocutory application also stands disposed.”

On a concluding note, the three Judge Bench of the Apex Court comprising of Justice NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Aniruddha Bose seeks to make it absolutely clear by this latest, learned, laudable and landmark judgment that, “The anticipatory bail once granted does not automatically end on the filing of the charge-sheet.” It is made abundantly clear by the Apex Court Bench in this leading case that the Allahabad  High Court had wrongly held that the anticipatory bail granted to the appellant by the Trial Court vide order dated 21.10.2019 had come to an end with the filing of the charge-sheet. So no wonder that the Apex Court Bench therefore set aside the impugned orders passed by the High Court and restored the anticipatory bail granted to the appellant by the Trial Court vide order dated 21.10.2019. Rightly so!

Sanjeev Sirohi

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