Supreme Court: In a petition under Article 136 of the Constitution of India filed against judgment passed by Patna High Court on 21-03-2023 which denied pre-arrest bail to petitioner accused under Sections 353, 387, 419, 420, 467, 468 and 120-B of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) and Sections 66-C and 66-D of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (‘IT Act’), the Bench of Aniruddha Bose, Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Augustine George Masih, JJ. refused to grant anticipatory bail and ordered the petitioner to surrender within 2 weeks. The Court also sought the High Court’s reply on the action taken.
It was alleged that the petitioner being an officer of the Indian Police Service, in connivance with the co-accused, conspired for deriving undue benefits of either postings or for getting disciplinary proceedings initiated against him dropped. With his active knowledge and connivance, the petitioner obtained SIM cards through the co-accused wherein, a WhatsApp account was created containing a display picture of the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court, and as alleged, calls and messages were made to the then Director General of Police through the said WhatsApp account for obtaining favourable decisions for the petitioner.
It was contended on behalf of the petitioner that there was no direct evidence to substantiate him to be an active participant or having done any specific overt act in pursuance of a conspiracy. Also, the DGP involved for alleged calls so made was surprisingly not made an accused and now sought to be made a witness against the petitioner. It was claimed that “the authorities are trying to find a scapegoat as the matter had grown out of proportion due to the so-called ‘involvement’ of the high constitutional office of the Hon’ble the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court.” It was further submitted for the Court to consider the fact that “once custodial interrogation is not required, merely because the allegations are of a serious nature, a person should not be asked to surrender and undergo incarceration.”
On the other hand, it was stated on behalf of the State and Economic Offences Unit that the petitioner could not be said to be a mere co-accused, because he was the main beneficiary and the mastermind of the entire crime. It was also submitted that even in FIR and during investigation, cogent evidence had emerged to link the petitioner physically with the co-accused, since the tower locations of their mobile phones found at the places where witnesses stated that they met with the purpose to benefit the petitioner regarding posting or dropping the charges.
The modus operandi disclosed was that screenshots of chats from the number impersonating the Chief Justice of Patna High Court were sent to another number, which again forwarded to the petitioner’s mobile for keeping him updated regarding the developments. Thus, the petitioner’s mobile handset was demanded which was not produced despite repeated requests by the investigating agency, but deliberately avoided by the petitioner making false claims.
Court’s Analysis of Anticipatory Bail
With reference to the decisions in Sumitha Pradeep v. Arun Kumar C.K., 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1529 and State of Haryana v. Dharamraj, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1085, the Court opined that the petitioner was not entitled to the benefit of anticipatory bail, considering the seriousness and gravity of the alleged offences along with the apparent non-cooperation.
While citing Satender Kumar Antil v. CBI, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 452, the Court reiterated that enunciation of law ‘qua bail would equally apply to anticipatory bail cases. Anticipatory bail after all is one of the species of a bail.’ Pointing towards the interim order in the petitioner’s favour, the Court ordered him to surrender before the Court concerned within 2 weeks. The Court cautiously expressed that “This Court will certainly not shut its eyes to the materials unearthed, since it relates not only to maintaining purity in judicial proceedings but upholding public faith in the system at large.”
The Court therefore directed the Registrar General of Patna High Court to submit complete details of the action taken by the High Court pursuant to the reference made to ‘Hon’ble the Chief Justice for taking appropriate decision on the administrative side’ for the facts noted in the impugned judgment. It further directed the counsel for the investigating agency to produce the entire up-to-date Case Diary flagging the relevant portions on the next date.
The instant matter was listed for the next hearing on 12-12-2023 and also ordered for adding Patna High Court through its Registrar General as the Respondent No. 3.
[Aditya Kumar v. State of Bihar, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1593, Order dated 22-11-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioner: Senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave, Senior Advocate S.D. Sanjay, Advocate on Record Ashish Batra
For Respondent: Advocate Saket Singh, Advocate Sangeeta Singh, Advocate on Record Niranjana Singh