Satender Kumar Antil vs. Central Bureau Of Investigation

MISCELLANEOUS APPLICATION NO.1849 IN SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRL.) NO.5191 OF 2021

FACTS

  • Satender Kumar Antil was accused of demanding a bribe while working as an assistant provident fund commissioner at the regional office of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation, Noida, according to a charge sheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (Anti Corruption Branch), Ghaziabad, under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code (punishment of criminal conspiracy) and Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (offense relating to public servant being bribed).
  • Throughout the investigation, he wasn’t arrested. The trial court acknowledged the charge sheet and sent summonses for Antil to appear in the court.
  • He was granted a warrant with the ability to post bail after failing to show up, and when he failed to show up for the trial court again, the warrant’s ability to post bail was removed.
  • Antil requested anticipatory bail from the Allahabad High Court after fearing arrest, but it was denied on the grounds that he hadn’t been before the trial court and that he was working there as the Assistant Provident Fund Commissioner at the time the bribe money was seized. He submitted a Special Leave Petition to the Supreme Court against this order, dated July 1, 2021.

ISSUES RAISED:

The Supreme Court made it clear that the twin bail conditions stipulated by Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) Act were invalid in the present case. In addition, the Apex Court established rules for the granting of bail to simplify the process because lower courts are reluctant to give bail even when the accused cooperates. The Supreme Court’s primary concern was the unwarranted arrest of the accused both before and after the chargesheet was filed or during an investigation.

CONTENTION:

The bench declared that the original provision, Section 45, had been repealed. The Court intended to simplify the bail process by repealing section 45. The Court additionally requested that the parties reach a consensus regarding the clarifications they wanted from the Court. Speaking of the lower courts’ carelessness in giving relief, the Supreme Court claimed that 40% of its cases now involve anticipatory bail, turning it into a bail court.

According to the Court, not everyone should be imprisoned and the investigation should not end until the money is recovered in economic instances. According to Mr. Siddharth Agrawal, the ruling from October 7, 2021, did not impose restrictions on the granting of bail. The bench answered, “We will say that the order in no way imposes additional fetters, but it is in furtherance of the line of judicial thinking to enlarge the scope of bail” Even if the person were not detained but instead brought before the court, according to Mr. N. Hariharan, an odd circumstance would arise because section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002Act does not mention detention.

Furthermore, if Section 19 is not applicable, Section 45 will not be applicable. He also said that section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002needed to be clarified. In response, the bench remarked, “We have already stated that if the Investigating Agency does not need to make an arrest at the time of investigation, then we have discouraged.” Further, according to Mr. Hariharan, even if the accused was produced with the complaint and not apprehended by the agency in accordance with the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, he should still receive the same benefits as in other cases.

Mr. Raju objected to Mr. Hariharan’s suggestion, saying that such instructions could not be given because the investigating officer might be corrupt in some circumstances and fail to apprehend the culprit. The bench answered, “If there is no reason to arrest the accused during the course of the investigation, the mere filing of the chargesheet would not be an ipso facto cause.” The bench made the point that any ruling issued by the Supreme Court would have no impact on lower courts’ propensity to deny bail. According to Mr. Amit Desai, the Trial Court in Bombay interpreted the instructions as a ruling and disregarded the legislation governing the granting of bail.

Mr. Mukul Rohtagi made another point, stating that when someone who satisfies the requirements of the ruling from October 7th “appears on summons, then such a person has the recourse of Section 88 of Cr.PC, whereby he ought to apply for bond and not bail.“He asked for clarification so that the accused might use section 88 as a legal defense. People must submit a bail application even in complaints instances, according to Mr. Desai. The Court observed that while bail hearings should not last more than 15 to 20 minutes, they frequently do. [1]

DEFECT OF LAW:

There were some inconsistencies with respect to the categories. Other than being a special statute, category D covers economic offenses. However, theft, which is punishable for 3 years, is an economic offense and should come under category A or B.

RATIONALE:

The decision relates to Section 170 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (the “CrPC”), which mandates that the official in charge of the police station send the accused to a Magistrate while they are still in custody once the investigation is complete and a charge sheet is filed against them. The accused is only eligible for bail if the offense is bailable. However, in practice, the clause resulted in persons being mechanically arrested even if they had not been detained during the investigation. Even though anticipatory bail was upholdable in such a situation, judges were often hesitant to release defendants on bail.[2]

Similar circumstances were presented to the Supreme Court in the current case, and it was difficult for it to accept the standard practise of sending the accused to jail even when two requirements were met: that they were not detained during the course of the investigation and that they cooperated with the investigating agency.

The rules were established in three stages. A decree on October 7, 2021, issued the initial set of rules. Guidelines were provided that took into account the two prerequisites and divided the offenses into four different groups.

The four categories are:

a) Offences punishable with imprisonment of seven years or less not falling in categories b and d;

b) Offences punishable with death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for more than seven years;
c) Offences punishable under special Acts containing stringent provisions for bail, like the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002 (‘PMLA’), the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and the Companies Act, 2013; and

 d) Economic offenses not covered by special Acts.

The Supreme Court clarified some aspects of Section 45 of the PMLA, which addresses cognizable and non-bailable economic offenses, on December 16, 2021.

The Supreme Court issued its final ruling on July 11, 2022, clarifying its earlier orders and providing a set of instructions for the four types of offenses it had established in its order of October 7, 2021.[3]

INFERENCE:

The Supreme Court issued its final ruling on July 11, 2022, clarifying its earlier decisions and providing a set of instructions for the four types of offenses it had established in its order of October 7, 2021.

Whether or not the judgment is followed will be the true detector test. This is not the first instance in which the police and lower courts have disregarded the required bail standards established by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s decision in D.K. Basu versus State of West Bengal (1996), which gave specific criteria for arrest and detention, is an example of a landmark judgment that only exists on paper and is primarily intended for scholarly consideration.[4]

Similar to this, although being reiterated in the current judgment and set forth in Arnesh Kumar versus State of Bihar (2014), the rules are routinely disregarded. “Bail is the rule, jail is the exception,” a well-liked legal tenet established by the Supreme Court in the State of Rajasthan versus Balchand alias Baliya (1978), but hardly ever put into practice.

Examining the Satender Kumar Antil provisions, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed but which are rarely followed, is crucial in light of the past precedents that were disregarded.

Dhriti Kathuria

Maharshi Dayanand University


[1] Satender Kumar Antil v. Central Bureau of Investigation and Another, Supreme Court Judgements, October 7, 2021.

[2] The Fundamental Tussle between Bails and Fundamental Rights: Analysing the Vijay Chaudhary Judgment and Determining a Way Forward, SCC Online.

[3] The Leaflet, Supreme Courts Guidelines in the Bail matter, 14 August, 2022

[4] Supreme Court Clarifies Guidelines On Grant Of Bail: Satender Kumar Antil Vs Central Bureau Of Investigation, Lawyers Club India, 20 December, 2021.