The Supreme Court said on Thursday that the trial court is not barred from granting interim bail, taking into consideration the conduct of the accused during the probe, as it issued guidelines for granting bail after the filing of chargesheet.
A bench comprising justices S.K. Kaul and M.M. Sundresh said: “In terms of the suggestions, the offences have been categorised and guidelines are sought to be laid down for grant of bail, without fettering the discretion of the courts concerned and keeping in mind the statutory provisions.”
The top court accepted the suggestions made by senior advocate Sidharth Luthra and additional solicitor general S.V. Raju in the matter.
The top court has put the offences under four categories: (A) Offences punishable with imprisonment of 7 years or less not falling in category B & D; (B) Offences punishable with death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for more than 7 years; (C) Offences punishable under Special Acts containing stringent provisions for bail like NDPS, PMLA, UAPA, Companies Act etc.; (D) Economic offences not covered by special acts.
The bench said the requisite conditions include those not arrested during investigation, and those who cooperated throughout in the probe including appearing before the investigating officer whenever called.
“While issuing notice to consider bail, the trial court is not precluded from granting interim bail by taking into consideration the conduct of the accused during the investigation, which has not warranted arrest,” noted the bench.
In category A, the bench placed ordinary summons at the first instance, including permitting appearance through lawyer, and if such an accused does not appear despite service of summons, then bailable warrant for physical appearance may be issued.
“Non-bailable warrant may be cancelled or converted into a bailable warrant/summon without insisting physical appearance of the accused, if such an application is moved on behalf of the accused before execution of the NBW on an undertaking of the accused to appear physically on the next date of hearing,” it noted.
In category B/D, the bench placed appearance of the accused in court pursuant to the process issued, and bail application to be decided on merits.
In category C, the bench said: “Same as Category B and D with the additional condition of compliance of the provisions of bail under NDPS Section 37, PMLA 45, 212(6) Companies Act, 43 d (5) of UAPA, POSCO etc.”
The bench accepted the caveat put by the additional solicitor general stating that when the accused has not cooperated and not answered the summons, and his judicial custody is required, this approach cannot give them benefit.
“Thus, it is not as if economic offences are completely taken out of the aforesaid guidelines but do form a different nature of offences and thus the seriousness of the charge has to be taken into account but simultaneously, the severity of the punishment imposed by the statute would also be a factor,” the bench said.
The bench emphasised that the trial courts and the high courts will have to keep in mind the aforesaid guidelines while considering bail applications.