Three-judge Supreme Court bench to hear EPFO pleas

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Courts should enquire into the antecedents of an accused to find out if he has a bad record and is likely to commit serious offences while out on bail, the Supreme Court has observed.

A bench comprising justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and MR Shah made the remarks while setting aside the bail granted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to a man facing a murder and criminal conspiracy case.

The nature of the charge and the evidence are also vital factors while deciding on bail pleas, the bench said, adding the severity of the punishment in case of conviction also bears upon the issue. Referring to its earlier decisions, the bench said the deprivation of freedom by refusal of bail is not for punitive purposes but for the bifocal interests of justice.

“Another relevant factor is whether the course of justice would be thwarted by him who seeks the benignant jurisdiction of the Court to be freed for the time being. The Court has also to consider the likelihood of the applicant interfering with the witnesses for the prosecution or otherwise polluting the process of justice,” the bench said.

“It is further observed that it is rational to enquire into the antecedents of the man who is applying for bail to find out whether he has a bad record, particularly a record which suggests that he is likely to commit serious offences while on bail,” the bench added.

The top court said that while granting of bail, the factors among other circumstances which are required to be considered are — the nature of accusation, the severity of punishment in case of conviction and the nature of supporting evidence, reasonable apprehension of tampering with the witness or the apprehension of threat to the complainant; and prima facie satisfaction of the court in support of the charge.

The SC’s observations came while it was hearing an appeal against a Punjab & Haryana High Court granting bail to an accused in connection with an FIR at Police Station Sadar Jalandhar, District Jalandhar under Sections 302 (murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 34 (common intention), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) of Indian Penal Code and section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959.

The bench said the high court has failed to appreciate and consider the nature of the accusation and the severity of the punishment in case of conviction and the nature of supporting evidence.

“The High Court has also failed to appreciate the facts of the case; the nature of allegations; gravity of offence and the role attributed to the accused. As per the allegations, the accused Inderpreet Singh, respondent no. 1 herein is the main conspirator who hatched the conspiracy along with other co-accused and that too from the jail,” the bench said.

“The High Court has also failed to notice the serious allegation of hatching conspiracy from the jail. The High Court ought to have considered that if respondent no. 1 — accused Inderpreet Singh — can hatch the conspiracy from jail, what he will not do if he is released on bail,” it added.

The apex court said that in the facts and circumstances of the case, the High Court has committed a grave error in releasing Singh on bail and therefore the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court is unsustainable and the same deserves to be quashed and set aside.