The Supreme Court on Friday cautioned high courts against choking legitimate prosecution by letting accused out on bail even though their petitions for quashing the FIR or staying the investigation are rejected. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy underlined concerns over high court orders whereby no merit was found in plea for staying the probe or trashing the FIR, but the accused were still granted bail and the police was asked not to arrest them during the investigation.
Such an order, the bench said, was “absolutely inconceivable” and “inappropriate” since it is contrary to the settled principles and judicial precedents that have laid down that this power has to be used sparingly in those cases where it is absolutely warranted to protect the liberty of individuals.
The court said that in cases where the high court has found no ground to stay the investigation after examining the FIR, it was “unthinkable” that accused will still be let out on bail and the investigators shall be denuded of custodial interrogation.
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“The court, if it thinks fit, regard being had to the parameters of quashing and the self-restraint imposed by law, has the jurisdiction to quash the investigation and may pass appropriate interim orders as thought apposite in law, but it is absolutely inconceivable and unthinkable to pass an order of the present nature while declining to interfere or expressing opinion that it is not appropriate to stay the investigation. This kind of order is really inappropriate and unseemly,” said the bench.
The bench reminded the high courts, which are empowered under the Criminal Procedure Code and the Constitution to grant protection from arrest, that it had a duty to keep at bay “unprincipled and unethical litigants” who are looking to scuttle the prosecution.
“Power is not to be used to choke or smother the prosecution that is legitimate…the courts should oust and obstruct unscrupulous litigants from invoking the inherent jurisdiction of the court at the drop of a hat to file an application for quashing of launching an FIR or investigation and then seek relief by an interim order,” said the bench.
The court order came as it set aside a directive by Hyderabad High Court not to arrest three men, accused in a case of rioting and attempt to murder. The High Court had refused to quash the investigation under Section 482 of the CrPC, but ordered the investigating agency not to arrest the accused.
“We are also surprised by the impugned order. The types of orders like the present one, are totally unsustainable…it is intellectual truancy to avoid the precedents and issue directions which are not in consonance with law. It is the duty of a judge to sustain the judicial balance and not to think of an order which can cause trauma to the process of adjudication,” said the bench.