SC condemns “Bench hunting” or “forum shopping” for filing successive bail applications [Read the Judgment]
Observing that the Judge, who has declined to entertain the prayer for grant of bail, if available, should hear the second bail application or the successive bail applications, a Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice U.U. Lalit criticized the practice of “Bench hunting” or “forum shopping”.
The Bench observed, “Needless to say, unless such principle is adhered to, there is enormous possibility of forum-shopping which has no sanction in law and definitely, has no sanctity. If the same is allowed to prevail, it is likely to usher in anarchy, whim and caprice and in the ultimate eventuate shake the faith in the adjudicating system. This cannot be allowed to be encouraged.”
“Unscrupulous litigants are not to be allowed even to remotely entertain the idea that they can engage in forum-shopping, depreciable conduct in the field of law,” it added.
The Court fixed the onus on the prosecution to bring it to the notice of the concerned Judge that such an application was rejected earlier by a different Judge and he was available.
It hence, asserted, “In the entire adjudicatory process, the whole system has to be involved. The matter would be different if a Judge has demitted the office or has been transferred. Similarly, in the trial court, the matter would stand on a different footing, if the Presiding Officer has been superannuated or transferred. The fundamental concept is, if the Judge is available, the matter should be heard by him. That will sustain the faith of the people in the system and nobody would pave the path of forum-shopping, which is decryable in law.”
In the facts and circumstances of the case however, the Court directed that the bail order granted in the favor of the petitioners should remain in force and they should abide by the terms and conditions imposed by the Court
The Special Leave Petition was filed against an order by the Delhi High Court in October, 2014, through which it had set aside an order granting anticipatory bail, passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Saket Courts, Delhi.
The petitioners had allegations of cheating, criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of money leveled against them. As alleged in the FIR, the appellants had allured the respondent to buy a property situated at the Defence Colony, New Delhi, for which he had paid an advance of Rs.1,50,00,000/-. The FIR alleged that on the basis of oral agreement, certain amount was paid and on 30.04.2013, an agreement to sell was duly executed between the parties. After a delay of execution of sale deed, it came to the notice of the respondent that the petitioners had entered into an agreement to sell the said property to a third person.
First application for anticipatory bail was dismissed by the Additional Sessions Judge-6, after which they filed a second petition on the expiry of three weeks. This application was allowed by Additional Sessions Judge-04.
The Delhi High Court however, set aside the order of bail, on the ground that there was misrepresentation as there was no change in the circumstances for the grant of bail on the second application. Also on the ground that the application for grant of anticipatory bail could not have been entertained by the Additional Sessions Judge-04, for the first application was rejected by the Additional Sessions Judge-6, South East Saket.
Accepting the High Court’s stand as to the grant of successive anticipatory bail, the Bench said that such a practice “is in consonance with the principle of judicial decorum, discipline and propriety.
Read the judgment here.