SC: Anticipatory bail to be granted only if case is frivolous/groundless

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 5th September 2019, in the matter of P. Chidambaram v. Directorate Of Enforcement observed that anticipatory bail is to be granted only in exceptional cases where the case alleged is frivolous or groundless.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that: 

In cases of PMLA, in exercising the power to grant anticipatory bail would be to scuttle the statutory power of the specified officers to arrest which is enshrined in the statute with sufficient safeguards. (Para 34)

The merits of the contention that Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act cannot be the predicate offence qua the accused, cannot be gone into at the stage of considering the prayer for anticipatory bail (This inference has been drawn on the basis of Para 41)

Power under Section 438 Cr.P.C. is an extraordinary power and the same has to be exercised sparingly. The privilege of the pre-arrest bail should be granted only in exceptional cases. (Para 67)

Grant of anticipatory bail to some extent interferes in the sphere of investigation of an offence and hence, the court must be circumspect while exercising such power for grant of anticipatory bail. Anticipatory bail is not to be granted as a matter of rule and it has to be granted only when the court is convinced that exceptional circumstances exist to resort to that extraordinary remedy. (Para 67)

The court must also keep in view that a criminal offence is not just an offence against an individual, rather the larger societal interest is at stake. Therefore, a delicate balance is required to be established between the two rights – safeguarding the personal liberty of an individual and the societal interest. It cannot be said that refusal to grant anticipatory bail would amount to denial of the rights conferred upon the appellant under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. (Para 70)

Pre-arrest bail is to strike a balance between the individual’s right to personal freedom and the right of the investigating agency to interrogate the accused as to the material so far collected and to collect more information which may lead to recovery of relevant information. (Para 72)

Power under Section 438 Cr.P.C. being an extraordinary remedy, has to be exercised sparingly; more so, in cases of economic offences. Economic offences stand as a different class as they affect the economic fabric of the society. (Para 76)

Section 438 Cr.P.C. is to be invoked only in exceptional cases where the case alleged is frivolous or groundless. (Para 82)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_05-Sep-2019

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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