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"Approver Can't Be Kept In Jail Indefinitely": Jharkhand High Court Grants Bail To Man In Jail For 3 Yrs Exercising Powers U/S 482 CrPC

Sparsh Upadhyay
22 April 2022 1:13 PM GMT
Approver Cant Be Kept In Jail Indefinitely: Jharkhand High Court Grants Bail To Man In Jail For 3 Yrs Exercising Powers U/S 482 CrPC
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In a significant order, stressing that an approver cannot be allowed to remain in jail custody indefinitely, the Jharkhand High Court today ordered the release of an approver-petitioner, who has been in custody for more than three years, by exercising its power under Section 482 CrPC.The Bench of Justice Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi observed that in exceptional and reasonable cases, the High...

In a significant order, stressing that an approver cannot be allowed to remain in jail custody indefinitely, the Jharkhand High Court today ordered the release of an approver-petitioner, who has been in custody for more than three years, by exercising its power under Section 482 CrPC.

The Bench of Justice Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi observed that in exceptional and reasonable cases, the High Court has power under Section 482 CrPC to enlarge the approver on bail or in case there are circumstances to suggest that his detention had been so much prolonged.

The case in brief

Essentially, the Court was dealing with a 482 CrPC plea seeking bail moved by a man who has been tendered pardon (turned approver) under Section 306 CrPC in connection with a Special (NIA) Case of 2018.

This case was registered under sections 414/384/386/387/120B of the IPC, 25(1-b)a/26/35 of the Arms Act, Section 17(1)(2) of the CLA Act, and sections 16/17/20/23 of the UA(P) Act and the case is presently pending in the court of learned Special Judge, NIA-cum-Additional Judicial Commissioner-XVI, Ranchi.

It was the contention of the counsel for the petitioner that since an approver is not an accused person of an offence, therefore, sections 437 and 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure cannot be pressed into service by an approver for his enlargement on bail.

Therefore, the counsel further submitted that being an approver, the petitioner had approached the Court by invoking the inherent power of the court u/s 482 CrPC seeking bail.

Lastly, submitting that the petitioner has been in jail custody for more than three years, his counsel contended that after the allowance of his application to become an approver, he can't be detained in jail for an indefinite period and that too in anticipation of the persons who are absconding.

On the other hand, the A.S.G.I appearing for the N.I.A submitted that at this stage, the petition under section 482 Cr.P.C. is not maintainable as the other accused persons are still required to be examined.

He further submitted that detention of the approver in custody must end with the trial as envisaged under Section 306 (4)(b) of the Cr.P.C. Lastly, he submitted that it is not meant to punish the person in whose favor, a pardon has been tendered but to protect him from the possible indignation, rage, and resentment of his associates in a crime.

Court's observations and order

At the outset, the Court noted the deposition of the petitioner/approver was recorded and 8 accused persons have already been cross-examined in the case and the petitioner has been discharged,

Further, the Court also opined that since other accused persons are not apprehended and some of the accused persons have not even appeared in the court, therefore, the trial will be prolonged in the case.

Significantly, the Court also noted that when the approver has already been examined and has supported the prosecution case, there won't be any point in detaining the petitioner in the jail, despite the fact that even some of the accused persons have been granted bail.

Against this backdrop, stressing that a person who has been made approver cannot be allowed to remain in jail custody indefinitely and that, Section 306(4)(b) CrPC [which says that every person accepting a tender of pardon should be detained in custody until the termination of the trial], is directory in nature and not mandatory, the Court remarked thus:

"In exceptional cases to enlarge the approver on bail and according to Section 306(4)(b) Cr.P.C. the approver should be detained in custody till the termination of trial, if he is not already on the bail, at the same time, in exceptional and reasonable cases the High Court has power under section 482 Cr.P.C to enlarge the approver on bail or in case there are circumstances to suggest that his detention had been so much prolonged, which would otherwise outlive the period of sentence, if convicted, his detention can be declared to be illegal as violative of Article 21 of the Constitution of India."

In view of this, the petition was allowed and the petitioner was directed to be released on bail on furnishing bail bond of Rs.50,000/- and two sureties of the like amount each to the satisfaction of Special Judge, NIA-cum-Additional Judicial Commissioner-XVI, Ranchi.

Case title - Sudhanshu Ranjan @ Chhotu Singh v. The Union of India, through National Investigation Agency, New Delhi [Cr.M.P. No. 1300 of 2021]

Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Jha) 37

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