High Courts, Sessions Courts can grant anticipatory bail to accused even if FIR registered in another State: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that High Courts and Sessions Courts can grant anticipatory bail to an accused even if the first information report (FIR) is registered in another State. [Priya Indoria vs State of Karnataka and Ors]
A bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan took the view that in the interest of justice, courts should provide limited interim protection while considering the liberty of citizens, subject to certain conditions.

“An interpretation [of the Criminal Procedure Code] giving rise to an absolute bar on the jurisdiction of a Court of Session or a High Court to grant interim anticipatory bail for an offence committed outside the territorial confines of a High Court or Court of Session may lead to an anomalous and unjust consequence for bona fide applicants who may be victims of wrongful, mala fide or politically motivated prosecution”, the bench reasoned.

The bench stressed that the fundamental rights to personal liberty and access to justice have to be interpreted in a ‘contextually sensitive; manner to preserve constitutional values.

Further, a remedy such as anticipatory bail secures citizens afflicted in difficult life circumstances.

Accordingly, the Court laid down the following conditions for grant of transit anticipatory bail in such cases:

(i) Prior to passing an order of limited anticipatory bail, the investigating officer and public prosecutor who are seized of the FIR shall be issued notice on the first date of the hearing, though the Court in an appropriate case would have the discretion to grant interim anticipatory bail.

(ii) The order of grant of limited anticipatory bail must record reasons as to why the applicant apprehends an inter-state arrest and the impact of such grant of limited anticipatory bail or interim protection, as the case may be, on the status of the investigation.

(iii) The jurisdiction in which the cognizance of the offence has been taken does not exclude the said offence from the scope of anticipatory bail by way of a State Amendment to Section 438 of CrPC.

(iv) The applicant for anticipatory bail must satisfy the Court regarding his inability to seek anticipatory bail from the Court which has the territorial jurisdiction to take cognizance of the offence. The grounds raised by the applicant may be – a. a reasonable and immediate threat to life, personal liberty and bodily harm in the jurisdiction where the FIR is registered; b. the apprehension of violation of right to liberty or impediments owing to arbitrariness; c. the medical status/ disability of the person seeking extraterritorial limited anticipatory bail

The bench stressed the importance of the concerned court ascertaining the territorial proximity, and ‘exceptional and compelling circumstances’, when granting anticipatory bail.

“Power to grant extra-territorial anticipatory bail should be exercised … where, denying transit anticipatory bail or interim protection to enable the applicant to make an application under Section 438 of CrPC before a Court of competent jurisdiction would cause irremediable and irreversible prejudice to the applicant. The Court … in case it deems fit may grant interim protection instead for a fixed period and direct the applicant to make an application before a Court of competent jurisdiction.”

Further, it cautioned against forum shopping and clarified that accused cannot travel to any other State solely for filing bail pleas without clear reasons.

The issue before the apex court was whether anticipatory bail can be granted by a court which is not located within the State where the FIR was lodged.

The top court had in March this year issued notice on the plea filed by a complainant who had lodged a first information report (FIR) in Rajasthan, but the accused-husband was granted anticipatory bail by a Bengaluru district judge.

The complaint involved allegations of dowry demands.

Senior Advocate Kaustav Paul, appearing for the woman, pointed out that different High Courts have taken divergent views in the matter and the apex court needs to settle the position of law.

The woman’s plea was filed through advocate Rishi Malhotra.

With respect to the original complaint, the top court set aside the order of the Bengaluru court for not taking note of the views of the complainant.

“However, in the interest of justice, it is directed that no coercive steps may be taken against the accused for the next four weeks, to enable them to approach the jurisdictional Court in Chirawa, Rajasthan for anticipatory bail”, it was clarified.

Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee was the Amicus Curiae.

Additional Advocate General Manish Singhvi appeared for the Rajasthan government. Advocate VN Raghupathy appeared for the Karnataka government.

Advocate Anjana Sharma appeared for the accused-husband.

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