Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre vs State Of Maharashtra and Ors is a case regarding the scope of anticipatory bail given in section 438 of CRPC. In this case, both the appellate and respondent were political leaders and candidates in the election.
The appellate Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre who was the candidate of the Congress party and Sidramappa Patil was contesting on behalf of BJP.
In FIR it was stated that, on 26.9.2009, around 6.00 p.m. in the evening, Sidramappa Patil of BJP came to the village to meet his party workers.
He went to pray at Devi temple along with Shrimant Ishwarappa Kore, Bhimashankar Ishwarappa Kore, Kallapa Gaddi, Sangappa Gaddi, Gafur Patil, Layappa Gaddi, Mahadev Kore, Suresh Gaddi, Suresh Zhalaki, Ankalgi, Sarpanch of village Shivmurti Vijapur.
While Patil was returning from temple the opposition supporter came and started shouts in favor of Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre. One person from Congress side fired bullet and Bhima Shankar Kore was hit on the head by the bullet and died on spot.
The main issue by which this appeal came before the Supreme court was that in registered FIR, it was mentioned that eight days before the incident took place Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre had come to village and told his worker that, “If anybody says anything to you, then you tell me. I will send my men within five minutes. You beat anybody. Do whatever.”
According to the prosecution, the appellant along with his brother instigated their party workers which led to the killing of Bhima Shanker Kora.
Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre, the appellant approached the high court and then now in supreme court after the rejection of his anticipatory bail plea in the high court.
Supreme court heavily relied on Sibbia case in which scope of anticipatory bail was discussed.
Why was provision of anticipatory bail introduced?
The Law Commission of India, in its 41st Report dated 24th September 1969, pointed out the necessity of introducing a provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure enabling the High Court and the Court of Sessions to grant “anticipatory bail“.
In the report it was observed, The necessity for granting anticipatory bail arises mainly because sometimes influential persons try to implicate their rivals in false cases for the purpose of disgracing them or for other purposes by getting them detained in jail for some days.
In recent times, with the accentuation of political rivalry, this tendency is showing signs of steady increase. Apart from false cases, where there are reasonable grounds for holding that a person accused of an offense is not likely to abscond, or otherwise misuse his liberty while on bail, there seems no justification to require him first to submit to custody, remain in prison for some days and then apply for bail.
After the report section, 438 was included in Cr.P.C. 1973, to save personal liberty and freedom in democratic government.
Mahesh Jethmalani for the respondent argued that anticipatory bail should be granted in the rarest of rare cases. “He placed reliance on the case of Pokar Ram vs State of Rajasthan and Others (1985)2 SCC 597 and submitted that in murder cases custodial interrogation is of paramount importance particularly when no eye witness account is available.“
Mr. Jethmalani submitted that the practice of passing orders of anticipatory bail operative for a few days and directing the accused to surrender before the Magistrate and apply for regular bail is contrary to the law laid down in Sibbia’s case (supra).
Mr. Shanti Bushan contended that personal liberty is provided as fundamental right in the constitution. He also submitted that it is the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every individual is presumed to be innocent till he or she is found guilty.
He further submitted that on proper analysis of section 438 Cr.P.C. the legislative wisdom becomes quite evident that the legislature wanted to preserve and protect personal liberty and give impetus to the age-old principle that every person is presumed to be innocent till he is found guilty by the court.
Mr. Bushan contended that anticipatory bail is not for limited period till charge sheet is filed. Court cannot after filling out the chargesheet ask him to apply for regular bail. Mr. Bhushan submitted that when no embargo has been placed by the legislature then this court in some of its orders was not justified in placing it.
Bhushan referred to para 15 of constitution Bench judgment in Sibbia’s case (supra) to strengthen his argument which reads as under:
“Judges have to decide cases as they come before them, mindful of the need to keep passions and prejudices out of their decisions. And it will be strange if, by employing judicial artifices and techniques, we cut down the discretion so wisely conferred upon the courts, by devising a formula which will confine the power to grant anticipatory bail within a strait-jacket. While laying down cast-iron rules in a matter like granting anticipatory bail, as the High Court has done, it is apt to be overlooked that even judges can have but an imperfect awareness of the needs of new situations. Life is never static and every situation has to be assessed in the context of emerging concerns as and when it arises. Therefore, even if we were to frame a `Code for the grant of anticipatory bail’, which really is the business of the legislature, it can at best furnish broad guidelines and cannot compel blind adherence. In which case to grant bail and in which to refuse it is, in the very nature of things, a matter of discretion. But apart from the fact that the question is inherent of a kind which calls for the use of discretion from case to case, the legislature has, in terms express, relegated the decision of that question to the discretion of the court, by providing that it may grant bail “if it thinks fit”. The concern of the courts generally is to preserve their discretion without meaning to abuse it. It will be strange if we exhibit concern to stultify the discretion conferred upon the courts by law.”
Judgement of Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre vs State Of Maharashtra and Ors
Court with the help of Sibbia case judgment held, it should not be used in the rarest of rare cases. The small court incorrectly interpreted section 438 that he should only be used in the rarest of rare cases.
The courts considering the bail application should try to maintain a balance between the societal interest vis-a-vis personal liberty while adhering to the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that the accused is presumed to be innocent till he is found guilty by the competent court.
Court held that the filed complaint should be examined throughly including the aspect whether the complainant has filed false or frivolous complaint on earlier occasion.
The court should also examine the fact whether there is any family dispute between the accused and the complainant and the complainant must be clearly told that if the complaint is found to be false or frivolous, then strict action will be taken against him in accordance with the law.
The court said it is imperative for the court to carefully and with meticulous precision evaluate the facts of the case. The discretion must be exercised on the basis of the available material and the facts of the particular case.
In cases where the court is of the considered view that the accused has joined the investigation and he is fully cooperating with the investigating agency and is not likely to abscond, in that event, custodial interrogation should be avoided.
Court held that the intention of the legislature on bail is quite clear that the power to grant the bail or refusal of bail is entirely discretionary. The power is given to high court and session court to apply their mind in delivering if anticipatory bail was right.
The court said the restriction imposed on section 438 Cr.P.C. limits the personal liberty of the accused guaranteed under Article 21. To bring the restriction of time which is not found in enactment is again an unreasonable restriction. It will be against the decision of Maneka Gandhi decision.
Court took the view that once anticipatory bail is granted, then it would be unreasonable to compel the accused to surrender before the trial and again apply for bail. The court said the validity imposed by the apex court to surrender before the trial court is contrary to the basic intention and sec 438 spirit.
It was held that in Salauddin’s case (supra) it was held that anticipatory bail should be granted only for a limited period and on the expiry of that duration it should be left to the regular court to deal with the matter is not the correct view.
Therefore, in view of the clear declaration of the law by the Constitution Bench, the life of the order under section 438 Cr.P.C. granting bail cannot be curtailed.
The ratio of the judgment of the Constitution Bench in Sibbia’s case (supra) perhaps was not brought to the notice of their Lordships who had decided the cases of Salauddin Abdulsamad Shaikh v. State of Maharashtra.
Court said we are bound to follow judgement of Sibbia case and anticipatory bail was granted to the appellate.