Principles Governing Grant of Bail In Sessions Offences

The Supreme Court of India in Prahlad Singh Bhati Vs. N.C.T., Delhi, AIR 2001 SC 1444 : 2001 (2) SCR 684 : (2001) 4 SCC 280 : 2001 (2) SCALE 572 : JT 2001 (4) SC 116 held that if punishment prescribed is for imprisonment for life and death penalty and the offence is exclusively triable by the Court of Sessions, Magistrate has no jurisdiction to grant bail unless the matter is covered by the provisos attached to Section 437 of the Code.

A bench comprising of K.T. Thomas & R.P. Sethi JJ. observed that powers of the Magistrate, while dealing with the applications for grant of bail, are regulated by the punishment prescribed for the offence in which the bail is sought.

Bail for Offences triable exclusively by Court of Sessions

The limitations circumscribing the jurisdiction of the Magistrate are evident and apparent Assumption of jurisdiction to entertain the application is distinguishable from the exercise of the jurisdiction.

In cases where the offence is punishable with death or imprisonment for life which is triable exclusively by a Court of Sessions, the Magistrate may, in his wisdom, refrain to exercise the powers of granting the bail and refer the accused to approach the higher courts unless he is fully satisfied that there is no reasonable ground for believing that the accused has been guilty of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life.

the bench said.

Even though there is no legal bar for a Magistrate to consider an application for grant of bail to a person who is arrested for an offence exclusively triable by a Court of Sessions, yet it would be proper and appropriate that in such a case the Magistrate directs the accused person to aproach the Court of Sessions for the purposes of getting the relief of bail.

Even in a case where any Magistrate opts to make an adventure of exercising the powers under Section 437 of the Code in respect of a person who is, suspected of the commission of such an offence, arrested and detained in that connection, such Magistrate has to specifically negativate the existence of reasonable ground for believing that such accused is guilty of an offence punishable with sentence of death or imprisonment for life.

In a case, where the Magistrate has no occasion and in fact does not find, that there were no reasonable ground to believe that the accused had not committed the offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life, he shall be deemed to be having jurisdiction to enlarge the accused on bail.

In the instant case while exercising the jurisdiction apparently under Section 437 of the Code, the Metropolitan Magistrate appears to have completely ignored the basic principles governing the grant of bail.

He referred to certain facts and the provisions of law which were not, in any way, relevant for the purposes of deciding the application for bail in a case where accused was charged with an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life.

The mere initial grant of anticipatory bail for lesser offence, did not entitle the respondent to insist for regular bail even if he was subsequently found to be involved in the case of murder. Neither Section 437(5) nor Section 439(1) of the Code was attracted.

There was no question of cancellation of bail earlier granted to the accused for an offence punishable under Sections 498-A, 306 and 406 IPC. With the change of nature of the offence, the accused becomes disentitled to the liberty granted to him in relation to a minor offence, if the offence is altered for an aggravated crime.

Instead of referring to the grounds which entitled the respondent-accused the grant of bail, the Magistrate adopted a wrong approach to confer him the benefit of liberty on allegedly finding that no grounds were made out for cancellation of bail.

Facts of the Case

A case under Sections 306 and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was registered against respondent No. 2. He moved an application for grant of anticipatory bail. The Additional Sessions Judge, New Delhi granted him interim bail.

Subsequently, a charge sheet was filed against the accused under Sections 302, 406 and 498-A of I.P.C. and he was directed to appear before the Metropolitan Magistrate. He failed to appear in that court and consequently a non-bailable warrant was issued against him.

In the meantime accused-respondent filed an application under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 without impleading the appellant who is father of deceased. The High Court kept the order of Metropolitan Magistrate in abeyance.

In his petition before the High Court the accused suppressed the fact that a charge sheet under Section 302 had been filed against him. The High Court issued notice to the appellant but in the meantime accused filed an application under Section 438 of Cr.P.C. No order was passed on this and a direction was issued to him to appear before the Metropolitan Magistrate and pray for bail in accordance with law.

The Metropolitan Magistrate granted him bail even in a case under Section 302 IPC. The Revision Petition filed before the High Court was dismissed by a Single Judge. Hence this appeal.

Allowing the appeal and setting aside the impugned order, the Apex Court held that despite the involvement of important questions of law, the High Court failed in its obligation to adjudicate the pleas of law raised before it and dismissed the petition of the appellant by a one sentence order. The orders of the Magistrate as also of the High Court being contrary to law are set aside.