Bail in heinous offence should be granted judiciously: SC

Those accused of heinous offences should not be granted bail in an arbitrary manner SC has ruled.

New Delhi: Those accused of heinous
offences should not be granted bail in an arbitrary manner as
various factors like the propensity to tamper with evidence
and the possibility of escape should be considered before the
relief is given, the Supreme Court has ruled.

A Bench of Justices D K Jain and H L Dattu in a
judgement chided the Calcutta High Court for granting bail to
Ashis Chatterjee, a murder accused, despite the fact that he
was charged with a heinous offence of strangulating a 57-year
old widow.
"We are of the opinion that the impugned order is
clearly unsustainable. It is trite that this Court does not,
normally, interfere with an order passed by the High Court
granting or rejecting bail to the accused.

"However, it is equally incumbent upon the High Court
to exercise its discretion judiciously, cautiously and
strictly in compliance with the basic principles laid down in
a plethora of decisions of this Court on the point," the Bench
said quashing the bail and directing his forthwith arrest.

The accused allegedly strangled Mallika Sen at her
residence on July 2, 2009.

Though the Sessions Court had thrice dismissed his
bail plea, the High Court granted him bail with the
observation," Having regard to the nature of the alleged
crime, we do not think that interest of investigation
requires or (sic) justifies further detention of the present
petitioner at this stage."

Aggrieved, the brother of the victim appealed in the
apex court seeking cancellation of the bail.
Citing a number of its earlier decisions the apex
court said it was well settled that among other circumstances,
the factors to be borne in mind while considering an
application for bail are: (i) whether there is any prima facie
or reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed
the offence;(ii) nature and gravity of the accusation; (iii)
severity of the punishment in the event of conviction; (iv)
danger of the accused absconding or fleeing, if released on
bail; (v) character, behaviour, means, position and standing
of the accused; (vi) likelihood of the offence being repeated;
(vii) reasonable apprehension of the witnesses being
influenced; and (viii) danger, of course, of justice being
thwarted by grant of bail.

The apex cuort said if the High Court does not advert
to such relevant considerations and mechanically grants bail,
the said order would suffer from the vice of non-application
of mind, rendering it to be illegal.

"We are constrained to observe that in the instant
case, while dealing with the application of the accused for
grant of bail, the High Court completely lost sight of the
basic principles that have been enumerated.

"The accused, in the present case, is alleged to have
committed a heinous crime of killing an old helpless lady by
strangulation. He was seen coming out of the victim`s house by
a neighbour around the time of the alleged occurrence, giving
rise to a reasonable belief that he had committed the murder.

"We feel that under the given circumstances, it was
not the stage at which bail under Section 439 of the Code
should have been granted to the accused, more so, when even
charges have not yet been framed, the Bench said.

In the instant case the Additional Chief Judicial
Magistrate had rejected three bail applications of the accused
but the High Court did not find it worthwhile to even make a
reference to these orders.

"Needless to add that observations touching the merits
of the case against the accused are purely for the purpose of
deciding the question of grant of bail and if in future any
such application is filed by the accused, it shall be
considered on its own merits untrammelled by any of these
observations, the Bench added.