Normally, it is believed that only in a bailable offence, an accused can ask the police official to release him from the custody on furnishing bail and for a non-bailable offence no such facility is available. The system apparently has not been able to dispel this misconception either from the mind of general public or of the police officials. Result is that Magisterial courts are burdened unnecessarily with the production of accused and dealing with their remand application and bail application. On a proper appreciation and training, much judicial time can be saved which can be utilized on other more serious things.
Section-437 CrPC deals with the concept of bail in non-bailable cases and to the relevant extent reads as “437. When bail may be taken in case of non bailable offence.- (1) When any person accused of, or suspected of, the commission of any non-bailable offence is arrested or detained without warrant by an officer in charge of a police station or appears or is brought before a court other than the High Court or Court of Session, he may be released on bail, but-”.
This sub-section clearly applies to a person who is accused of or suspected of commission of a non-bailable offence. Further condition appearing in the provision is in two parts i.e. firstly, when the person is arrested or detained without warrant and secondly, when he appears or brought before the court. In any of the situations, the concerned person may be released on bail. There is clear time gap between arrest/detention on the one hand and his being brought before the court on the other hand.
Section-437(2) may also be noted which reads as: “If it appears to such officer or Court at any stage of the investigation, inquiry or trial, as the case may be, that there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the accused has committed a non-bailable offence, but that there are sufficient grounds for further inquiry into his guilt, the accused shall, subject to the provisions of section 446A and pending such inquiry, be released on bail, or, at the discretion of such officer or Court, on the execution by him of a bond without sureties for his appearance as hereinafter provided”.
No doubt, the aforesaid indicates towards a situation where there is a reasonable belief that the person has not committed a non-bailable offence. But the sub-section will help in understanding the concept of “officer” regularly appearing in Section-437. Further, it also contemplates a subsequent change of situation. Meaning thereby that even if initially the accused is arrested for a non-bailable offence, he still may be released subsequently by the officer in certain situation.
Section-437(4) CrPC is of sincere significance which reads as: “An officer or a Court releasing any person on bail under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2), shall record in writing his or its reasons or special reasons for so doing”.
This sub-section-(5) in clear terms contemplates that even an officer can release the person on bail under sub-section-(1) by recording his reasons in writing. It contemplates an “officer” releasing the accused even under sub-section-(1). Naturally, if an officer cannot release an accused on bail in a non-bailable case, there could not have been any requirement for the draftsman to provide for a situation warranting recording of reason by such officer.
Who is that “officer”? If we read sub-section-1, 2, 5 together, we will come to a clear conclusion that the “officer” mentioned is the “officer in charge of the police station” in all these sub-sections.
Though an officer in charge of the police station may release the accused arrested or detained without a warrant for any non-bailable offence, the exception provided thereto also applies to him. The exceptions are: (i) Such person shall not be so released if there appear reasonable grounds for believing that he has been guilty of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life; (ii) Such person shall not be so released if such offence is a cognizable offence and he had been previously convicted of an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for seven years or more, or he had been previously convicted on two or more occasions of a cognizable offence punishable with imprisonment for three years or more but not less than seven years.
It is now at this stage that we have to take note a development introduced by the Parliament in the year 2006 which reads as “Provided also that no person shall, if the offence allege to have been committed by him is punishable with death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for seven years or more be released on bail by the Court under this subsection without giving an opportunity of hearing to the Public Prosecutor.”
The aforesaid proviso casts an obligation on the court to give an opportunity to the public prosecutor in cases of certain offences having specific punishments. However, it nowhere impose any such prohibition for officer in charge. One may argue that it would be unthinkable that though a court cannot grant bail without giving opportunity to public prosecutor but the officer in charge can do so. I consider that there is no such dichotomy. Reason is obvious. Prosecution agency works in the court and is not available for police stations and therefore no such provision could have been provided at all. Second reason is that a proviso cannot be stretched to an extent of assuming to curtail a right which has been provided by the substantive section.
Aforesaid analysis formally concludes that even if a person is arrested or detained without warrant for an offence of non-bailable nature, the officer in charge of the police station may grant bail to him for reasons to be recorded. However, this can only be done until the accused is produced before the court after arrest. Once the court assumes jurisdiction, the officer in charge will have no authority to grant bail.