HCs, sessions court can grant limited anticipatory bail in FIRs lodged outside their jurisdictions: SC

New Delhi: In a significant verdict, the Supreme Court Monday held that a high court or sessions court can grant anticipatory bail for a limited period to a person apprehending arrest in connection with an FIR registered outside their territorial jurisdiction, saying it was necessary to protect a citizen’s right to life, personal liberty and dignity.

The top court in its order, having wide ramifications in criminal matters where accused apprehend arrests in cases lodged in other states, laid down several conditions for grant of such a relief.

“We are of the view that considering the constitutional imperative of protecting a citizen’s right to life, personal liberty and dignity, the High Court or the Court of Session could grant limited anticipatory bail in the form of an interim protection under Section 438 of CrPC in the interest of justice with respect to an FIR registered outside the territorial jurisdiction of the said court,” a bench comprising justices B V Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan said.

At the same time, it said such power to grant extra-territorial anticipatory bail should be exercised in exceptional and compelling circumstances.

The verdict came on an appeal of a woman challenging the grant of anticipatory bail by a Bengaluru local court to her estranged husband and his family members in connection with a dowry harassment FIR lodged at Chirawa Police Station at Jhunjhunu district in Rajasthan.

This gave rise to a legal question of whether a sessions court can grant anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in connection with an FIR lodged outside its jurisdiction.

Answering in affirmative, Justice Nagarathna, in her 85-page judgement, laid down certain conditions for granting such a relief.

“Prior to passing an order of limited anticipatory bail, the investigating officer and public prosecutor who are seized of the FIR shall be issued notice on the first date of the hearing, though the court in an appropriate case would have the discretion to grant interim anticipatory bail,” it said.

The bench said the order of grant of “limited anticipatory bail” must record reasons as to why the applicant apprehends an inter-state arrest and the impact of such grant of limited anticipatory bail or interim protection, as the case may be, on the status of the investigation.

“The jurisdiction in which the cognisance of the offence has been taken does not exclude the said offence from the scope of anticipatory bail by way of a State Amendment to Section 438 of CrPC,” it said.

The person, seeking anticipatory bail, must satisfy the court regarding his inability to seek anticipatory bail from the court which has the territorial jurisdiction to take cognisance of the offence, it said.

The grounds raised by the applicant may be “a reasonable and immediate threat to life, personal liberty and bodily harm in the jurisdiction where the FIR is registered”, it said.

The person apprehending arrest will have to prima facie establish the violation of the right to liberty or impediments owing to arbitrariness and “the medical status/ disability of the person”.

Dealing with the facts of the case, the bench took note of the social reality of “criminal complaints relating to dowry harassment, cruelty and domestic violence arising out of unsuccessful matrimonial relationships”.

“With the increasing migration of young people for marital and career prospects, supplemented by the forces of economic liberalisation, a significant number of couples hail from two different states, with the corollary being that the matrimonial home of a complainant-wife is located in a different state from where her parental home is located,” it said.

The judgement said it would be impossible to fully account for all exigent circumstances in which an order of extra-territorial anticipatory bail may be imminently essential to safeguard the fundamental rights of the applicant.

“We reiterate that such power to grant extra-territorial anticipatory bail should be exercised in exceptional and compelling circumstances only – which means where denying transit anticipatory bail or interim protection to enable the applicant to make an application under Section 438 of CrPC before a Court of competent jurisdiction would cause irremediable and irreversible prejudice to the applicant,” it said.

The court, while considering such an application for extra-territorial anticipatory bail, in case it deems fit may grant interim protection instead for a fixed period and direct the applicant to make an application before a court of competent jurisdiction, it said.

By this judgement, the top court set aside verdicts of the Patna High Court and the Calcutta High Court “to the extent that they hold that the High Court does not possess jurisdiction to grant extra-territorial anticipatory bail that is  even a limited or transit anticipatory bail.”

The judgement also answered a query with regard to jurisdiction.

The question was if a person commits an offence in one state and the FIR is lodged there, can he approach a court at his native place in another state seeking “transit anticipatory bail for a limited duration”?

“We have held that the accused could approach the competent court in the State where he is residing or is visiting for a legitimate purpose and seek the relief of limited transit anticipatory bail although the FIR is not filed in the territorial jurisdiction of the District or State in which the accused resides, or is present depending upon the facts and circumstances of each case,” it held.


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