In a major judgment, the Supreme Court on Tuesday held that the courts should not either make it a routine practice or mechanically pass an interim order, directing no coercive steps against the accused in a criminal case.
A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, M.R. Shah and Sanjiv Khanna said: “The functions of the judiciary and the police are complementary, not overlapping, and the combination of individual liberty with a due observance of law and order is only to be obtained by leaving each to exercise its own function.”
The bench emphasised that the court and the judicial process should not interfere at the stage of the investigation of offence. “Criminal proceedings ought not to be scuttled at the initial stage. Quashing of a complaint or FIR should be an exception rather than an ordinary rule,” it added.
Noting that in a routine case, where investigation commenced followed by suspects arrested, the resort to the unusual procedure of interim stay order would have the effect of interfering the investigation of offences by the investigating officer performing statutory duty under Cr.P.C., the bench added that the FIR is not an encyclopaedia which must disclose all facts and details relating to the offence reported.
Therefore, when the investigation by the police is in progress, the court should not go into the merits of the allegations in the FIR and police must be permitted to complete the investigation, it said.
The bench stressed that while dealing with a petition under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C or under Article 226 of the Constitution to quash a criminal case, the High Courts should not pass the order of not to arrest the accused either during the investigation, or till the investigation is completed.
“Normally, when the investigation is in progress and the facts are hazy and the entire evidence or material is not before the High Court, it should restrain itself from passing the interim order of not to arrest or ‘no coercive steps to be adopted’ and the accused should be relegated to apply for anticipatory bail before the competent court,” said the bench, laying down detailed guidelines for the High Court in dealing with the petition under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C.
It emphasised that the extraordinary and inherent powers of the court do not confer an arbitrary jurisdiction upon it to act according to its whims or caprice. “The power of quashing should be exercised sparingly with circumspection, as it has been observed, in the ‘rarest of rare cases (not to be confused with the formation in the context of death penalty)”, said the bench in the 64-page judgment.
The top court’s order came as it allowed a petition by Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt Ltd challenging an interim order by the Bombay High Court, which protected the accused against any coercive step, in case of forgery and fabrication of board resolution of the company. The accused used this for the sale of valuable property measuring 111,882 sq feet in Mumbai.