Such relief can be granted only in exceptional circumstances, the Court said.
The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that, while Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which governs the grant of anticipatory bail by the High Court or Sessions Court, should be liberally interpreted, courts should not ordinarily grant protection from arrest for a specific time period in cases where there is no basis for anticipatory bail.
Courts are awarding accused persons protection from arrest for long periods of time, such as 90 days, according to a bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana, despite the fact that no cause for anticipatory bail has been made out. Only in extreme circumstances can such a power be employed.
"Even when the Court is not inclined to grant anticipatory bail to an accused, there may be circumstances where the High Court is of the opinion that it is necessary to protect the person apprehending arrest for some time, due to exceptional circumstances, until they surrender before the Trial Court. For example, the applicant may plead protection for some time as he/she is the primary caregiver or breadwinner of his/her family members, and needs to make arrangements for them," the Court noted.
However, such discretionary power cannot be exercised in an untrammeled manner, the Court underscored. "The Court must take into account the statutory scheme under Section 438, Cr.P.C., particularly, the proviso to Section 438(1), CrPC, and balance the concerns of the investigating agency, complainant and the society at large with the concerns/interest of the applicant. Therefore, such an order must necessarily be narrowly tailored to protect the interests of the applicant, while taking into consideration the concerns of the investigating authority. Such an order must be a reasoned one," the order said.
As a result, the Court reversed two judgments issued by the Allahabad High Court, which had permitted the respondents-accused 90 days to surrender before the trial court to seek ordinary bail after dismissing their anticipatory bail motion.