In the judgment of the case - State represented by the Inspector of Police v. M. Murugesan & Another, delivered on January 15, 2020, Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Hemant Gupta, at the Supreme Court , have made it clear that the jurisdiction of the High Court under section 439 of the Criminal Procedure Code is limited to grant or not to grant Bail pending trial.
The SC’s finding is that the a Single Judge Bench of the Madras High Court has collected data from the State and made that part of the order after decision of the bail application as if the Court had the inherent jurisdiction to pass any order under the guise of improving the criminal justice system in the State.
The SC has commented further, that even though the Object of the concerned Judge was laudable but the jurisdiction exercised was “clearly erroneous”. The effort made by the Judge may be academically proper to be presented at an appropriate forum but such directions could not be issued under the colour of office of the Court.
While granting bail to the regular bail to the applicant –accused on February 18, 2019, subject to certain conditions, the HC, through the same order asked for the details of the cases registered by the Police, final report filed, trial conducted and result of such cases. The details were to bring to light the manner in which the entire criminal justice system is operating in the State. In pursuance of the directions so issued and the data provided, the impugned order was passed by the HC’s Single Judge Bench.
The High Court after collecting the data in respect of the criminal cases registered, convictions and acquittals in each district proceeded to write a thesis on how the criminal justice system, should function in the State. It was observed that the central aim of the criminal law is to reform the offender and to rehabilitate him in a bid to render him useful to society.
The matter before the HC was as to whether the accused persons were entitled to be admitted to bail, that is the jurisdiction conferred on the Court in terms of section 439 of the Cr.P.C. Before granting bail, the HC is obliged to issue notice of an application of bail to the Public Prosecutor if a person is accused of an offence which is triable exclusively n by the Court of Session or which, though not so triable, for punishment of imprisonment for life.
According to the apex-Court, the HC’s Single Bench Judge has committed grave illegality in retaining the file after grant of bail to the accused on February 18, 2019. The jurisdiction of the HC ended with its final decision on the application for grant of bail under section 439 of the Code.
The SC has noted that in its decision of the case – State of Punjab v. Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar & Others – (2011) 14 SCC 770, deprecated the invocation of jurisdiction By the Punjab & Haryana HC, in the matter not connected with the appeal and that too after passing of the final order.
In the Davinder Pal’s decision the SC has referred to another judgment of the case- Simrikhia v.Dolley Mukherjee and Chhabi Mukherjee & Another- (1990)2 SCC 437 wherein the Court observed that inherent powers under section 482 of Cr.P.C. cannot be exercised to do something which is expressly barred under the Code. It was held that inherent powers cannot be exercised assuming, that the statute confers an unfettered and arbitrary jurisdiction, nor can the HC act at its whim or caprice. The Code does not confer unlimited /unfettered jurisdiction on the HC as the “ends of justice” and “abuse of the process of Court” have to be dealt with in accordance with law and not otherwise.
The HC has not been given nor did it possess any inherent power to make any order, which in the opinion of the court, could be in the interest of justice as the statutory provision is not intended to bypass the procedure prescribed. It was also held that the HC can always issue appropriate direction in exercise of its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India at the behest of an aggrieved person, if the Court is convinced that the power of investigation has been exercised by an investigating officer mala fide or the matter was not investigated at all, but even such a case, the HC cannot direct the Police as to how the investigation is to be conducted but can insist only for the observance of due process as provided in the Code.
The Court has noted that in its decision of the case - Sangitaben Shaieshbhai Datanta v. State of Gujarat- 2018 SCC OnLine SC 2300 was examining a question where a court after grant of bail to an accused, ordered the accused and their relatives to undergo scientific test namely, lie detector, brain mapping and Narco-Analysis. This Court held that direction of the court to carry out such tests is not only in contravention to the first principles of criminal law jurisprudence but also violates statutory requirements.
In another SC judgment- Reserve Bank of India v. General Manager, Cooperative Bank Deposit A/c HR. Sha & Others - (2010) 15 SCC 85, The RBI had challenged an order passed on an application under section 439 of the Code, wherein an argument was raised that the poor depositors are not paid by the Bank out of the amount which has been received by the Bank. The Court issued directions that the Bank should start distributing the amount which is so for recovered by them from the accused.
The Bank was directed to furnish details of the money paid to the poor depositors. The accused, as well as the Investigating Officer and the Administrator of the Bank, were directed to remain present in the Court. The Court’s finding was that directions are beyond the scope of an application for bail filed by the accused under section 439 of the Code.
The Supreme Court’s final finding in the case is that the impugned order passed by the HC on April 24, 2019, is not sustainable in law and it is liable to be set aside and accordingly, the Court has quashed it.