STATE OF HARYANA V. DHRAMRAJ

Bench: Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Justice S.V.N. Bhatti

Appellant: State of Haryana

Respondent: Dharamraj

Citation: 2023 Latest Caselaw 682 SC

Judgement Date: 29 August 2023

Case No: Crl.A. No.002635-002635 / 2023

Facts

In the case of the State of Haryana Vs. Dharamraj[1] the FIR was charged against the respondent on 31.07.2020 including Sections 147, 148, 149, 323, 325, 341, 342 and 427 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Later, onward sections 186, 353, and 364 of the IPC, 1860 were also included.

The respondent, despite being a Proclaimed Offender declared on the date 5 February 2021, sought pre-arrest relief from the Punjab and Haryana High Court, and the court granted him respite through anticipatory bail on the date of October 2021.

The Appellant (State of Haryana) filed an appeal in the Supreme Court seeking the cancellation of anticipatory bail granted to the sole respondent by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana.

Issue

Is it permissible to grant anticipatory bail to a proclaimed offender?

Contention

Appellant contained –

• That the respondent had been declared a proclaimed offender as per section 82 of the Criminal Procedure Code,1973, trying to avoid legal consequences through deceptive actions. It was not correct for the High Court to brash aside such crucial factors that the respondent was proclaimed offender and only relying solely on the statements or claims made in legal pleadings without additional evidence or proof granting anticipatory bail as per Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.[2]

• That with the consideration of the gravity of the offences alleged and the serious nature of the charges against the respondent, which included Sections 186, 353 and 364 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. For these reasons, justification for granting anticipatory bail was lacking.[3]

• That there was a mistake or error In the judgement because there were significant indications suggesting the involvement of the respondent and several co-accused individuals have been granted anticipatory bail based on the grant of the respondent’s anticipatory bail, a decision deemed unfavourable to the broader public interest.

Respondent contented –

Supporting the impugned order, the respondent stated that the Investigating Agency was engaged in unnecessarily harassing the respondent and also manipulated all the records during the investigation. The respondent also contended that the case is built on unfair practices.

• Further the respondent stated that the State was attempting to portray the respondent as a wrongdoer solely based on the fact that the respondent shares a common name with another accused.

Rationale

• Upon careful examination of the presented facts and evidence by the appellant, the Supreme Court found that the High Court’s decision to grant anticipatory bail to the respondent was not appropriate. The critical flaw identified was the High Court’s inadequate consideration of a pivotal factor—the respondent’s proclamation as an offender—prior to extending anticipatory bail. The Court’s ruling signifies a nuanced evaluation, emphasizing the importance of contextual elements and, in this instance, highlighting the oversight regarding the respondent’s declared status as a proclaimed offender, which significantly influenced the appropriateness of granting anticipatory bail.

• The Supreme Court critically examined the reasons provided by the High Court for granting anticipatory bail to the respondent as follows:

 (a) That The offences described in the First Information Report did not exceed 7 years maximum sentence.

 (b) That stringent measures could be implemented to mitigate the risk of the respondent interfering with the investigation or evidence and related matters.

 (c) The reason the respondent was declared a proclaimed offender was not due to an obvious avoidance of court proceedings.

 (d) That the respondent is a first-time offender and deserves the opportunity to reform and redirect their path.

• The Supreme Court expressed confusion which had arisen from the High Court’s reliance on specific legal precedents, particularly Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar,[4] stated in case that automatic arrest isn’t needed for offences with the maximum sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 7 years but the court also included the section 364 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 in the charge sheet that has much harsher punishment of lifetime imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment of 10 years with a fine. The Supreme Court also expressed perplexity about why the High Court applied a rule meant for less severe cases to a more serious situation.

• The Supreme Court underscored the statement that to seek anticipatory bail, the respondent has to  first challenge this status as a proclaimed offender. Referring to the case Lavesh v. State of Delhi (2012),[5] the Supreme Court stated that proclaimed offenders cannot seek anticipatory bail and individuals in such status must address their status of proclaimed offender before seeking anticipatory bail.

• The Supreme Court also mentioned the case Madhya Pradesh v Pradeep Sharma (2014),[6] referring that proclaimed offender can seek anticipatory bail in exceptional and rare cases but in the case State of Haryana and Punjab v Dharmraj no exceptional situation arose in the case.

• Referring to the Case of Abhishek v State of Maharashtra (2022),[7] The Supreme Court, in its conclusion, emphasized that in cases where an accused is evading authorities and has been declared a proclaimed offender, the application of Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which deals with anticipatory bail, is not applicable. This decision underscores the principle that individuals deliberately avoiding legal proceedings forfeit the privilege of seeking anticipatory bail under Section 438.

Defects of law

In this case, the High Court of Punjab & Haryana made a critical oversight in the judicial process. Despite the respondent being declared a proclaimed offender, indicative of a prolonged evasion of legal obligations for a substantial eight-month period, the court seemed to dismiss this crucial fact. This declaration typically suggests a deliberate attempt to avoid facing legal consequences and further compounds the issue is the court’s singular reliance on the precedent established in the case of Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar, encapsulated by the adage “Bail is a rule, Jail is an exception.” While this principle is foundational in criminal jurisprudence, its blind application without a nuanced understanding of the specific context led to a significant legal misstep. The court’s apparent oversight in assessing the nature and gravity of the charges under Section 364 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) added to the complexity. Section 364 deals with the offense of kidnapping or abducting in order to murder, and its seriousness necessitates a meticulous evaluation during the anticipatory bail proceedings by failing to consider the proclaimed offender status and not adequately weighing the implications of Section 364, the court inadvertently introduced legal complications into the case. This misinterpretation of the rules governing anticipatory bail not only undermined the gravity of the charges but also neglected a fundamental aspect of the accused’s legal status, resulting in potential repercussions for the overall integrity of the legal process in this particular instance.

The rationale behind the High Court’s decision to approve anticipatory bail is questionable because the respondent faces a potentially serious sentence. The court heavily relied on the fact that the respondent was a first-time offender. The court also seemed to lose sight of the respondent’s status and didn’t address the status of the respondent. If the court is reviewing the bail application of the proclaimed offender, it is mandatory to confront and examine the proclaimed offender status attributed to the respondent as per the Case of Lavesh v State (NCT of Delhi), 2012.

The Supreme Court has nullified the Impugned Order that granted anticipatory bail to the respondent. In lieu of this, the Court has directed the respondent to surrender before the relevant court within four weeks, starting from August 29, 2023. Following surrender, the respondent is entitled to pursue regular bail, with the assurance that this evaluation will be conducted independently, free from any influence stemming from the present judgment and the Court also explicitly stated that the appeal is granted under specified terms, and all pending applications are now officially part of the case records. In response to the State’s assertion that the Impugned Order holds significance for a co-accused’s anticipatory bail, the Court has conveyed that it is now the State’s responsibility to proceed in accordance with the law within the established legal boundaries. This comprehensive ruling aims to address the intricacies of the case, outlining a clear path for the respondent’s surrender, subsequent legal proceedings, and the State’s responsibilities in relation to co-accused individuals seeking anticipatory bail.

Inference

The State of Haryana v Dharmraj case holds relevance in the field of law for several reasons:

  1. Interpretation of Anticipatory Bail Laws: The case contributes to the interpretation and application of anticipatory bail laws, specifically in situations where the accused has been declared a proclaimed offender. It clarifies that such individuals must address their proclaimed offender status before seeking anticipatory bail.
  2. Consideration of Gravity of Offenses: The judgment emphasizes the importance of considering the gravity of the offences alleged when deciding on anticipatory bail. It criticizes a general bail precedent being applied without due consideration of the specific circumstances, highlighting the need for a case-specific rationale.
  3. Legal Consequences for Proclaimed Offenders: The case sheds light on the legal consequences for individuals declared proclaimed offenders, outlining that seeking anticipatory bail is not a straightforward process and may only be permissible in exceptional and rare cases.
  4. Thorough Examination of Evidence: The Supreme Court’s scrutiny of the evidence and rationale provided by the High Court underscores the importance of a thorough examination of the facts and legal considerations when making decisions related to bail.
  5. Setting Precedent for Similar Cases: The case sets a precedent for similar situations where individuals with proclaimed offender status seek anticipatory bail. It provides a legal framework for future cases to consider the specific circumstances, gravity of charges, and the individual’s legal status before granting such relief.

State of Haryana v Dharmraj highlighted the failure of the High Court to overlook the respondent’s proclaimed offender status and raised concerns about the rationale behind granting anticipatory bail, given the serious charges involved. It also highlighted defects in the High Court’s decision-making, including a relying on a general bail precedent without checking consideration of the specific circumstances, which were pointed out. The case reinforces the importance of considering the proclaimed offender status when deciding on anticipatory bail and emphasizes the need for a thorough examination of the gravity of charges in such cases.

Pratap Rabha

Jalpaiguri Law College


[1] 2023 Latest Caselaw 682 SC

[2] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 Sections 82 &438

[3] Indian Penal Code, 1860 Sections 186, 353 & 364

[4] Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC 273

[5] Lavesh v State (NCT of Delhi), (2012) 8 SCC 730

[6] Madhya Pradesh v Pradeep Sharma, (2014) 2 SCC 171

[7] Abhishek v State of Maharashtra, (2022) 8 SCC 282

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *