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Written by: Shruti Srivastava (Intern)

Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)

The Supreme Court, in a recent order setting aside the bail granted to an accused, held that the conduct of the accused, the gravity of the offence etc. are to be considered by a superior court while revoking bail. This observation was made when the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, granting anticipatory bail to an accused in the case of dowry death, was challenged before the Apex Court.

Facts of the Case

The deceased, a full-time lecturer in a local government college, died of unnatural causes within three months of her marriage. It is alleged by the father of the deceased that his daughter was physically tortured and tormented in her marital home for not fulfilling dowry demands. The mother-in-law of the deceased (respondent-accused in this case), was especially accused of exploiting the deceased, keeping her devoid of any chance to recuperate from the household chores. Therefore, the deceased contacted her father, (complainant in this case) who assured to amicably resolve this matter by visiting his daughter’s marital home the following day. However, this promise could not be realised as his daughter met an untimely demise the next morning. It is alleged that she was administered poison by her in-laws, which led to this unfortunate incident.

Background of the Case

The father of the deceased lodged an FIR against seven people, one of whom was the respondent-accused, who moved an application of anticipatory bail which was rejected first by the Sessions Court, and then, the High Court. An arrest warrant was also issued against the accused for not cooperating with the investigation. However, the warrant could not be executed as the accused absconded soon after and continued to evade arrest for more than a year. It was when the apex court granted anticipatory bail to her son that she showed up and again moved an application of anticipatory bail before the High Court, citing her son’s bail as a ground for granting her the same. The High Court granted anticipatory bail to the accused, taking cognizance of the fact that she was entitled to seek parity with her son, a co-accused. Aggrieved by this, the complainant filed a criminal appeal in the apex court, contending that the High Court had committed a grave error in law.

Rationale of the Judgment

The Supreme Court, after deliberating upon the matter, passed an order cancelling the bail granted to the accused. The court reasoned its decision by recapitulating the legal principle that cancellation of bail is to be dealt on a different footing in comparison to a proceeding for grant of bail. While doing this, the court referred to its observation in another case of revocation of bail, where it held that revocation of bail and rejection of bail has to be dealt with differently and the possibility of the accused absconding is a sufficient reason for cancellation of bail. The court in the present case also highlighted that a superior court is entitled to intervene in bail orders if the gravity of the offence, the conduct of the accused and the societal impact of an undue indulgence by the court are overlooked by a lower court. The court also added a caveat by specifying that these observations should not be considered within the purview of opinion on the merits of the case and are limited to present proceedings only.


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