The Supreme Court delivered a significant judgment clarifying the jurisdiction of Sessions Courts or High Courts to grant pre-arrest bail when an FIR is lodged outside the territorial boundaries of the State. The court highlighted the need to protect the fundamental rights of citizens, particularly the right to life and personal liberty, while granting limited anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in cases involving extraterritorial FIRs.
Conditions for Limited Extraterritorial Anticipatory Bail
The Court established specific conditions for granting such bail:
1. Notice to Investigating Officer and Public Prosecutor: Prior to issuing limited anticipatory bail, the concerned Investigating Officer and Public Prosecutor handling the FIR must be notified. In certain cases, the court holds discretion to grant interim anticipatory bail.
2. Recording Reasons: The order granting bail must record reasons for the applicant’s fear of inter-state arrest and the potential impact of the bail on the investigation’s status.
3. No Exclusion of Offense from Anticipatory Bail Scope: The jurisdiction where the offense is cognized doesn’t exclude the possibility of anticipatory bail under Section 438 CrPC.
4. Satisfaction of Inability: The applicant should demonstrate the inability to seek bail from the court with territorial jurisdiction.
5. Reasonable Grounds for Apprehension: Grounds for seeking extraterritorial bail could include immediate threats to life, liberty, bodily harm, or other pertinent factors like medical conditions.
Restrictions to Prevent Abuse of Process
The Court cautioned against potential misuse by accused individuals selecting favorable courts for bail applications, thereby undermining the concept of territorial jurisdiction. To curb forum shopping and ensure a connection between the accused and the court’s jurisdiction, the Court stressed the need for a territorial link based on residence, occupation, or other substantial connections.
Case Illustration and Key Decisions
The Court began the judgment with an illustration and two central issues:
1. Territorial Jurisdiction for Anticipatory Bail: Whether HC/Sessions Court can grant anticipatory bail for an extraterritorial FIR.
2. Legality of Transit Anticipatory Bail: The practice of interim protection enabling an applicant to apply for anticipatory bail before the competent court.
Referring to legal precedents and the evolution of anticipatory bail, the Court emphasized personal liberty, access to justice, and Art. 21 (right to life and liberty) while deciding on bail matters.
Case Details and Verdict
In the case titled “Priya Indoria v. State of Karnataka”(SLP(Crl) No. 011423 – 011426 / 2023), the Supreme Court, consisting of Justice B.V. Nagrathna and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan, ruled against the Sessions Judge’s decision to grant extraterritorial anticipatory bail without notice to the appellant who filed the FIR. The impugned order was set aside, granting a four-week interim protection period for the accused to approach the jurisdictional court in Rajasthan for anticipatory bail. Any application made in the Sessions Court/HC shall be expedited for a swift resolution.
The judgment concluded by emphasizing the importance of upholding procedural fairness while safeguarding fundamental rights and ensuring justice in anticipatory bail matters.