15 May 2023 11:38 AM GMT
The Supreme Court recently held that the High Court even while deciding a bail application, has the power to issue other directions in the interest of justice, by virtue of its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution(Sanjay Dubey V State of Madhya Pradesh).. In this case, the High Court had directed departmental action against the appellant, a police officer, for dereliction of duty...
The Supreme Court recently held that the High Court even while deciding a bail application, has the power to issue other directions in the interest of justice, by virtue of its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution(Sanjay Dubey V State of Madhya Pradesh).
. In this case, the High Court had directed departmental action against the appellant, a police officer, for dereliction of duty while investigating a case for rape of a minor girl. While considering the bail application of the accused, the High Court directed action against the appellant for his lapses.
A division bench of Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah observed :
“The High Court is a Constitutional Court, possessing a wide repertoire of powers. The High Court has original, appellate and suo motu powers under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution. The powers under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution are meant for taking care of situations where the High Court feels that some direction(s)/order(s) are required in the interest of justice.”
The order of the High Court was challenged on the ground that the court ought not to have entered into any other realm, while deciding a bail application. The appellant had argued that when the application only relates to bail, a direction to conduct departmental enquiry against the accused was not warranted. However, the Apex Court judgment authored by Justice Amanullah observed that:
“though usually the proper course of action of the High Court ought to have been to confine itself to the acceptance/rejection of the prayer for bail made by the accused under Section 439 of the Code; however the High Court, being satisfied that there were, in its opinion, grave lapses on the part of the police/investigative machinery, which may have fatal consequences on the justice delivery system, could not have simply shut its eyes.”
An FIR was registered at the Sleemanabad Police Station under several sections including Sections 376 & 506 of the IPC, where the appellant was an Inspector. The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) Report pertaining to the matter was forwarded to the office of the Superintendent of Police who then forwarded it to the appellant directing him to carry out the DNA examination as per guidelines. However, the appellant failed to do so.
Even though the case diary was produced before the High Court during the consideration of bail, the FSL Report was not included. The High Court in this regard sought the personal appearance of the Superintendent of Police who submitted before the court that the appellant failed to carry out the DNA examination despite his direction to do so.
The Counsel for the State argued that the appellant had exhibited insubordination, incompetence and dereliction of duty and was liable to be proceeded against. It was submitted that departmental proceedings against the appellant had been initiated but could not be concluded due to the interim stay granted.
The Apex Court observed that the Superintendent of Police had already submitted before the High Court that he would take action against the appellant for dereliction of duty and hence the ‘direction’ by the court to proceed against the appellant was a mere reiteration of what was already stated.
The Apex Court also observed that the Single Bench of the High Court ought to have instituted separate proceedings under Article 226 by formulating reasons and points for consideration and referred the matter to the Chief Justice of the High Court who could have then placed it before the appropriate bench. The appropriate bench could have then proceeded against the appellant in accordance with law, the Apex Court observed.
The Apex Court also observed that had the impugned order been of a Court of Session, the factors that would have gone it considering the matter would have been ‘starkly different’.
“Though the appellant may have a point that that stricto senso, in a petition under Section 439 of the Code, the concerned Court ought not to travel beyond considering the specific issue viz. whether to grant bail or reject bail to an accused in custody, it cannot be lost sight of that the Court concerned herein was not a ‘Court of Session’ but the High Court for the State of Madhya Pradesh, established under Article 214 of the Constitution of India.”
The Supreme Court further noted that the Superintendent of Police had informed that the High Court about the decision to take departmental action against the appellant and that the High Court's 'direction' was a repetition of the statement given by the SP. Even while refusing to interfere with the High Court's order, the Supreme Court added a caveat :
"We hasten to add that our observations are not to be construed to imply that the High Courts should delve into the efficacy of investigation at the stage of bail, and the present judgment is not to be misread to haul up the investigative agencies/officers in all cases"
Case Title: Sanjay Dubey V State of Madhya Pradesh & Anr
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 435
Click here to read/ download judgment