By:- Janvi Shukla
In the Supreme Court of India
|Name of the case||Harjit Singh vs Inderpreet Singh|
|citation||Criminal Appeal No. 883 of 2021|
|Date of judgement||24th August, 2021|
|Bench/Judge||Hon’ble Dr Justice Chandrachud, M.R. Shah (Judge)|
|Statutes/Constitution involved||Indian Penal Code, 1860; Arms Act, 1959; Criminal Procedure Code, 1973; Prisons Act, 1894|
|Important Sections/Articles||Indian Penal Code, 1860– Ss. 302, 120-B, 34, 201 Criminal Procedure Code, 1973– S. 439 Arms Act, 1959– S. 25 Prisons Act, 1894– 52-A|
In this case the appellant feeling displeased by the order passed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana granting bail to the respondent who is charged with murdering his father filed an appeal to the Supreme Court asking to revoke and quash the High Court’s disputed decision and order. High Court without considering facts of the case and without keeping in mind the past criminal records of the respondent granted bail to him. the Supreme Court after examining the facts of the events, cancelled the bail order and laid down certain parameters which session court and high court should keep in mind while refusing and granting bail.
Section 439 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 entitles the High Court with power to grant bail if an accused person is in detention. The appellant Harjit Singh son of late Mann Singh filed an F.I.R against the respondent Inderpreet Singh. He alleged that his father has been murdered by the attackers working together including Inderpreet Singh on 21st September, 2020.
Additionally, it was believed that the murder of the appellant’s father was related to the fact that his father had been prosecuting a case against the respondent to convict them. The respondent at the time of the murder of appellant’s father was in the jail serving his sentence for the case filed by appellant’s father. After the interrogation, the respondent admitted that he was the one who killed appellant’s father, in his confession he said that he was not involved in the murder physically as he was in custody but he planned the murder through the mobile phone from the jail with co accused Jaskaran Singh who ran away from the jail. The investigating officer after the interrogation filed a chargesheet against the respondent and the co accused.
After that the respondent approached the high court for his bail under section 439 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The high court accepted the appeal and granted him bail on the fact that he was not physically there at the time of murder and was in custody so in such situations, the accused should not be held in custody any longer and not granting him bail would be unjustifiable. Displeased by the High Court’s order the appellant filed an appeal to the Supreme Court to quash the bail order granted to the respondent by the High Court without considering the criminal record of the respondent.
Facts of the case
The appellant filed a complaint under Sections 302, 120-B, 34, 201 of the Indian Penal Code,1860 and Section 25 of Arms Act, 1959 alleging that his father was murdered by the respondent and co-accused when his father was standing outside the Gurudwara Sahib gate, a white Maruti car pulled up next to him, and three people got out. Jaskaran Singh, Bahadur Singh, and Satvinder Singh got out of the vehicle. His father was allegedly grabbed by Bahadur Singh and Satvinder Singh and Jaskaran Singh who was carrying a weapon allegedly fired four to five shots at his father, killing him as a result.
After interrogation it was revealed that Inderpreet Singh and co-accused Jaskaran Singh were found guilty in FIR No. 67, which was filed on May 8, 2016, during the course of the inquiry the High Court suspended Inderpreet Singh’s sentence while he was appealing. The appellant then filed an appeal to quash the conviction saying that the respondent is threatening him on the phone. The High Court quashed the bail and ordered to take them both in custody. The respondent surrendered but Jaskaran Singh ran away from the jail and was labelled as an offender. It later came to the knowledge that Harjinder Singh who was accused in NDPS case provided the respondent with a phone through which Inderpreet and Jaskaran planned the conspiracy against Mann Singh. The investigator filed a chargesheet against the respondent and the accused under sections 302, 120-B, 34, 201 of IPC and Section 25 of Arms Act.
Inderpreet Singh then filed an appeal to Learned Session Judge to grant him bail under Section 439 of the Criminal Procedure Code, but the court refused the plea. The respondent then approached the court for bail. The High Court granted bail to the respondent without considering the facts of the case on the fact that the respondent had not participated in the murder physically as he was in custody so not granting bail to the respondent would not be justifiable. The appellant displeased by the High Court’s order decided to appeal in the Supreme Court seeking to quash the bail order granted to respondent by the High Court.
Issues raised before the Court
- Whether the bail granted by the High Court was Justifiable?
Argument from the appellant side
- The learned counsel appearing on behalf of appellant, said that the high court had committed a great error in releasing the respondent and overlooked the allegations on the respondent for which he was in jail.
- It was argued that the High Court ignored the severity of the offence when it granted bail to Respondent. specifically, it was alleged in the FIR that he planned the plot with other co-accused while still in custody and that he was the mastermind and primary conspirator. The High Court did not consider the accused’s past, the offense’s intention, or the possible threat to the complainant and his family members.
- It was claimed that respondent has previously been found guilty in three other cases and that while he was out on bail granted by the High Court, respondent in this case committed another crime and attempted to murder the complainant and members of his family. The respondent who has already been found guilty in other cases had previously been given bail in another case, but his bail was cancelled because he had misused the privilege. Therefore, it was argued, there is a high possibility that the accused will misuse the concession again.
- It was claimed that when granted bail to respondent, the High Court neglected to examine his criminal record. He has allegedly been found guilty in four other FIRs. It was argued that the High Court committed a significant error by failing to consider directly relevant information or evidence gathered during the course of the investigation relating to Respondent and by failing to notice that there is plenty of information gathered during the investigation establishing that Respondent and the other co-accused planned the conspiracy from the jail.
- It was argued that the High Court ignored the fact that the respondent is a persistent criminal and that it would not be appropriate to grant him bail given this fact. One of the reasons the High Court granted bail to Respondent was because he had been imprisoned for the previous four to five months. It was argued that given the seriousness of the crime, the offender’s history, and the fact that he is a habitual offender, the fact that the defendant has been imprisoned for only a short period of time cannot be used as justification for releasing him on bail for the murder and destruction of evidence he committed.
- Making the above arguments, it was requested that the court grant the current appeal, set aside the impugned decision and order issued by the High Court, and quash the release of Respondent on bail.
- Learned Counsel Jaspreet Gogoi appearing on behalf of the State of Punjab also took appellant’s side. She that the criminal record of the respondent was very bad and seeing his record the high court shouldn’t have granted him bail.
- It was argued that the respondent is a criminal who wants to take the lives of the appellant and his family. It was claimed that he repeatedly attempted to kill the appellant in this case three times, was found guilty in all three FIRs, and is currently serving a term in those cases. It was claimed that each time he was given bail in connection with the above FIRs, he was released from custody, committed another crime, and then was taken back to jail again.
- It was stated that when the High Court cancelled the bail for the respondent and co-accused on July 26, 2019, respondent returned to custody, but co-accused Jaskaran Singh jumped the bail and has been missing since then. he has been labelled a proclaimed criminal. It was argued that the respondent took advantage of the circumstance while being detained in Central Jail in Kapurthala and plotted with other co-accuse to murder the appellant’s father in this case.
- It was claimed that throughout the thorough investigation, it came to light that the accused and others used a mobile phone when they were detained. Further investigation was then carried out by the jail staff and the SSP in Kapurthala, and it was discovered during that investigation that the accused, respondent, and prisoner Rajvir Singh were using the mobile to make calls outside of the jail. As a result, FIR No. 209 dated January 8, 2021, was filed at P.S. Kotwali in Kapurthala. It was claimed that following the conclusion of the inquiry in case FIR No. 245 dated 21.09.2020, all defendants, including respondent have been charged for the offences. Further it was stated that there were ample of evidence against the respondent in this case.
Argument from Respondent side
- Learned counsel Shri Sant Pal Singh Sidhu appearing on behalf of respondent said that the decision took by the high court to grant the respondent with the bail was correct, and during the time of incident he was not physically present there at the crime site.
- It was argued that, as the High Court correctly noted, the claim that the accused Inderpreet Singh used a mobile phone within the jail is a fact that may be disputed since it would be necessary to prove the accused’s possession of a mobile phone inside the jail. Therefore, it is said, no more custodial investigation was necessary once the inquiry was finished and the chargesheet had already been filed. As a result, the accused, Inderpreet Singh, has been lawfully released on bail by the High Court.
- The bail granted by the Court can only be cancelled when the respondent misuses it. Inderpreet Singh did not misused the bail granted to him. Consequently, it is requested to reject the current plea.
Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Section 302
According to Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, a person who commits murder shall be punished with the death penalty or a life sentence in jail as well as a heavy fine. No one is exempted from the crime of murder under the IPC.
- Section 120-B
Section 120B of the IPC deals with the punishment for the crime of criminal conspiracy. There are two parts in Section 120B.
- The first part defines that person to commit a criminal conspiracy, which is punishable by death, life in prison, or a term of two years or more in prison; if no punishment had been specified in the code for the crime, the offender would be treated in the same manner as someone who assisted or encouraged the crime.
- The second part states that anyone who engaged in the conspiracy will be sentenced with a six-month prison, a fine or both.
- Section 34
Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 when a criminal act is carried out by multiple people in favor of their shared intention each of these individuals is accountable for the conduct in the same way as if it were committed by him alone.
- Section 201
Whoever destroys any evidence of an offence after it has been committed, knowing, or having reason to believe that it has been done, with the intent to shield the offender from legal penalty, or who, with that intent, provides false information about the offence
- If a capital offense—shall be punished with imprisonment of either sort for a period that may extend to seven years, as well as being liable for a fine, if the offence he knows or believes to have been committed is punishable by death.
- If the offence includes a life sentence– a sentence that may last up to 10 years, or both, a sentence that may last up to three years, along with a fine, will be imposed as punishment.
The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
- Section 439
Section 439 of the Criminal Procedure Code empowers the High Court to grant bail if an accused person is in detention. The High Court may direct:
- A High Court or Court of Session may order that a person accused of an offence and in custody be released on bail, and if the offence is of the sort mentioned in subsection (3) of section 437, may impose any condition that it deems necessary for the purposes mentioned in that sub-section
- The High Court or the Court of Session must notify the Public Prosecutor of the application for bail before granting it to a person who is accused of an offence that can only be attempted by the Court of Session or that, even if it cannot be attempted there, carries a life sentence of imprisonment. This is true unless the application is denied for reasons that must be documented in writing.
Arms act, 1959
- Section 25
Section 25 of Arms Act states that, anyone who violates section 7 by purchasing, possessing, or carrying any restricted weapons or prohibited ammunition faces a term of imprisonment that must not be less than five years but may reach ten years, as well as a fine
- Section 52-A
According to this Act, any prisoner found guilty of owning, using, or operating a mobile phone or any of its component parts or if the prisoner or any other person aids, actively supports, or encourages the supply thereof, shall be punished with a term of imprisonment not to exceed one year and a fine not to exceed Rs. 25,000, or with both; and if the mobile phone is used to commit an offence If a fine is not paid, imprisonment may result.
After examining all the facts of the crime and analyzing the criminal record of the respondent that after being granted bail, he was let out of jail, committed another crime, and was then arrested once again. The Supreme Court referred to and considered the few decisions of previous cases of the Court before giving the final judgement on what parameters the bail should be granted and refused.
In the case of Gudikanti Narasimhulu vs Public Prosecutor the High Court held that while granting bail the court should also consider the likelihood that the applicant would influence prosecution witnesses or otherwise corrupt the judicial system must also be considered by the court. It is also stated that it makes sense to look into the applicant’s past to see if he has a bad reputation, particularly if it signals that he is likely to commit severe offences while out on bail.
In the case State of Maharashtra vs Sitaram Popat Vetal the High Court held that while granting bail should following guidelines should be considered:
- The severity of punishment, the nature of accusation and the type of evidence supporting it.
- An articulable suspicion that the witness has been manipulated with or that the complainant is in danger.
- The charge has been established prima facie by the court
Furthermore, it has been found that any order not based on these factors suffers from a lack of mental effort. When determining whether a High Court order granting bail was correct, the Supreme Court considered the following guiding principles.
The Supreme Court ordered:
“Considering the overall facts and circumstances, we have held that the High Court has committed grave error in releasing theaccused on bail. Consequently, the High Court order is quashed and set aside. Respondent No. 1 is directed to surrender and be taken back into custody,”
The High Court made a serious mistake in releasing accused Inderpreet Singh on bail and the aforesaid judgement and decision issued by the High Court is unjustifiable and deserves to be quashed.
The Supreme Court also said:
“We have considered allegation, antecedents and other FIRs filed against the accused. From the material on record, it was clear that when he is granted bail, he came out of jail, committed another offence and again went to jail. Even the High Court cancelled the bail in another case specifically observing that when on bail during the pendency of the appeal, there were involved in other cases of heinous crimes.”
The high court without considering the criminal record of the respondent nor looking at all the evidence present against the respondent in his involvement with the murder of the appellant’s father granted bail to the Inderpreet Singh entirely on the fact that the respondent was physically absent on the crime scene. Inderpreet Singh was ordered to surrender. If Inderpreet Singh does not surrender right away, the learned trial court is directed to issue arrest warrants against Inderpreet Singh and take him into detention. The statements expressed by Supreme Court are only intended to help decide whether to grant bail to the respondent. It will not affect how the matter is further prosecuted. The learned trial court will decide the case on the basis of its own grounds and in conformity with the law.
Section 439 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 gives power to high court to grant bail to anyone, but high court should consider all the facts and evidence and the records of one and only then decide whether one should get bailed or not. Ignoring them is a major mistake and it affects the system of providing the citizens with justice. Passing the wrong judgement may affect the functioning of the society too. Providing the judgement is a crucial part of the society and even with one wrong judgement may disrupt the belief of justice within the society and among its people. Every wrong judgement the court passes on directly or indirectly inflict highly on the court and it also may start a questioning among the people if whether they should trust the court or not. Justice in a country is a very sensitive matter and it should be handled carefully as it may sometime be the only hope to somebody. The Supreme Court handled this matter in a perfect way and with carefully paying attention to all the details it considered every fact and evidence before providing the respondent with a judgement.
 Author is 2nd semester student at Amity Law School, Lucknow.
 See The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §302.
 See The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §120-B.
 See The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §34.
 See The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §201.
 See The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 §439.
 See Arms Act, 1959 §25.
 See Prisons Act, 1894 §52-A.
 Gudikanti Narasimhulu v. Public Prosecutor, (1978) 1 SCC 240.
 State of Maharashtra v. Sitaram Popat Vetal, (2004) 7 SCC 521.
 Indian Kanoon, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/64374079/ (last visited Jun. 26, 2022).