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Breaking- High Courts Shall Not Pass Order Of 'Not To Arrest' Or 'No Coercive Steps' While Dismissing/Disposing Petition U/s 482 CrPC: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
13 April 2021 11:10 AM GMT
Breaking- High Courts Shall Not Pass Order Of Not To Arrest Or No Coercive Steps While Dismissing/Disposing Petition U/s 482 CrPC: Supreme Court
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The High Court while dismissing/disposing of the quashing petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C and/or under Article 226 of the Constitution of India., shall not pass order of not to arrest and/or "no coercive steps" either during the investigation or till the investigation is completed and/or till the final report/chargesheet is filed under Section 173 Cr.P.C., the Supreme Court held.

"We caution the High Courts again against passing such orders of not to arrest or "no coercive steps to be taken" till the investigation is completed and the final report is filed, while not entertaining quashing petitions under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or Article 226 of the Constitution of India", the Supreme Court held in the case Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. vs. State of Maharashtra.

The bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, MR Shah and Sanjiv Khanna observed that when the investigation is in progress and the facts are hazy and the entire evidence/material is not before the High Court, the High Court should restrain itself from passing the interim order of not to arrest or "no coercive steps to be adopted" and the accused should be relegated to apply for anticipatory bail under Section 438 Cr.P.C. before the competent court.

The court issued the following guidelines explaining when and where the High Court would be justified in passing an interim order either staying the further investigation in the FIR/complaint or interim order in the nature of "no coercive steps" and/or not to arrest the accused either pending investigation by the police/investigating agency or during the pendency of the quashing petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or under Article 226 of the Constitution of India pending before the High Court.

  1. Police has the statutory right and duty under the relevant provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure contained in Chapter XIV of the Code to investigate into a cognizable offence;
  2. Courts would not thwart any investigation into the cognizable offences;
  3. It is only in cases where no cognizable offence or offence of any kind is disclosed in the first information report that the Court will not permit an investigation to go on;
  4. The power of quashing should be exercised sparingly with circumspection, as it has been observed, in the 'rarest of rare cases (not to be confused with the formation in the context of death penalty).
  5. While examining an FIR/complaint, quashing of which is sought, the court cannot embark upon an enquiry as to the reliability or genuineness or otherwise of the allegations made in the FIR/complaint;
  6. Criminal proceedings ought not to be scuttled at the initial stage;
  7. Quashing of a complaint/FIR should be an exception rather than an ordinary rule;
  8. Ordinarily, the courts are barred from usurping the jurisdiction of the police, since the two organs of the State operate in two specific spheres of activities and one ought not to tread over the other sphere;
  9. The functions of the judiciary and the police are complementary, not overlapping;
  10. Save in exceptional cases where non-interference would result in miscarriage of justice, the Court and the judicial process should not interfere at the stage of investigation of offences;
  11. Extraordinary and inherent powers of the Court do not confer an arbitrary jurisdiction on the Court to act according to its whims or caprice;
  12. The first information report is not an encyclopaedia which must disclose all facts and details relating to the offence reported. Therefore, when the investigation by the police is in progress, the court should not go into the merits of the allegations in the FIR. Police must be permitted to complete the investigation. It would be premature to pronounce the conclusion based on hazy facts that the complaint/FIR does not deserve to be investigated or that it amounts to abuse of process of law. After investigation, if the investigating officer finds that there is no substance in the application made by the complainant, the investigating officer may file an appropriate report/summary before the learned Magistrate which may be considered by the learned Magistrate in accordance with the known procedure;
  13. The power under Section 482 Cr.P.C. is very wide, but conferment of wide power requires the court to be more cautious. It casts an onerous and more diligent duty on the court;
  14. However, at the same time, the court, if it thinks fit, regard being had to the parameters of quashing and the self-restraint imposed by law, more particularly the parameters laid down by this Court in the cases of R.P. Kapur (supra) and Bhajan Lal (supra), has the jurisdiction to quash the FIR/complaint;
  15. When a prayer for quashing the FIR is made by the alleged accused and the court when it exercises the power under Section 482 Cr.P.C., only has to consider whether the allegations in the FIR disclose commission of a cognizable offence or not. The court is not required to consider on merits whether or not the merits of the allegations make out a cognizable offence and the court has to permit the investigating agency/police to investigate the allegations in the FIR;
  16. The aforesaid parameters would be applicable and/or the aforesaid aspects are required to be considered by the High Court while passing an interim order in a quashing petition in exercise of powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. However, an interim order of stay of investigation during the pendency of the quashing petition can be passed with circumspection. Such an interim order should not require to be passed routinely, casually and/or mechanically. Normally, when the investigation is in progress and the facts are hazy and the entire evidence/material is not before the High Court, the High Court should restrain itself from passing the interim order of not to arrest or "no coercive steps to be adopted" and the accused should be relegated to apply for anticipatory bail under Section 438 Cr.P.C. before the competent court. The High Court shall not and as such is not justified in passing the order of not to arrest and/or "no coercive steps" either during the investigation or till the investigation is completed and/or till the final report/chargesheet is filed under Section 173 Cr.P.C., while dismissing/disposing of the quashing petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
  17. Even in a case where the High Court is prima facie of the opinion that an exceptional case is made out for grant of interim stay of further investigation, after considering the broad parameters while exercising the powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or under Article 226 of the Constitution of India referred to hereinabove, the High Court has to give brief reasons why such an interim order is warranted and/or is required to be passed so that it can demonstrate the application of mind by the Court and the higher forum can consider what was weighed with the High Court while passing such an interim order.
  18. Whenever an interim order is passed by the High Court of "no coercive steps to be adopted" within the aforesaid parameters, the High Court must clarify what does it mean by "no coercive steps to be adopted" as the term "no coercive steps to be adopted" can be said to be too vague and/or broad which can be misunderstood and/or misapplied.

The bench was considering an SLP arising out of a September, 2020 order of the Bombay High Court on a writ petition. While granting time for the filing of a reply affidavit with additional documents, the High Court had in the interim directed that no coercive measures be adopted against the present respondents (director of a real estate development company and his business partners) in respect of the FIR registered by the present petitioner (Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt Ltd) with the Economic Offences Wing for alleged offences under Sections 406, 420, 465, 468, 471 and 120B of the IPC

The court observed that it came across many orders passed by the High Courts passing interim orders of stay of arrest and/or "no coercive steps to be taken against the accused" in the quashing proceedings under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or Article 226 of the Constitution of India with assigning any reasons. The court said that, in the case of Habib Abdullah Jeelani (supra), the Supreme Court had deprecated such practice/orders passed by the High Courts, directing police not to arrest, even while declining to interfere with the quashing petition in exercise of powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. The bench observed:

"We are at pains to note that despite the law laid down by this Court in the case of Habib Abdullah Jeelani (supra), deprecating such orders passed by the High Courts of not to arrest during the pendency of the investigation, even when the quashing petitions under Section 482 Cr.P.C. or Article 226 of the Constitution of India are dismissed, even thereafter also, many High Courts are passing such orders. The law declared/laid down by this Court is binding on all the High Courts and not following the law laid down by this Court would have a very serious implications in the administration of justice."
"Thus, it has been found that despite absolute proposition of law laid down by this Court in the case of Habib Abdullah Jeelani (supra) that such a blanket order of not to arrest till the investigation is completed and the final report is filed, passed while declining to quash the criminal proceedings in exercise of powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C, as observed hereinabove, the High Courts have continued to pass such orders. Therefore, we again reiterate the law laid down by this Court in the case of Habib Abdullah Jeelani (supra) and we direct all the High Courts to scrupulously follow the law laid down by this Court in the case of Habib Abdullah Jeelani (supra) and the law laid down by this Court in the present case, which otherwise the High Courts are bound to follow. We caution the High Courts again against passing such orders of not to arrest or "no coercive steps to be taken" till the investigation is completed and the final report is filed, while not entertaining quashing petitions under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or Article 226 of the Constitution of India."


Case: M/s Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. vs. State of Maharashtra [CrA 330 OF 2021]
Coram: Justices DY Chandrachud, MR Shah and Sanjiv Khanna
Counsel: Sr. Adv K.V. Vishwanathan, Adv Diljeet Ahluwalia, Adv Malak Manish Bhatt, Adv Sachin Patil and Adv Rahul Chitnis
Citation: LL 2021 SC 211



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