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Non-Bailable Warrants Will Not Be Issued Unless the Accused Is Likely to Abscond or Destroy Evidence

Introduction

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India (‘SC’), in the case of Sharif Ahmed and Anr v. State of Uttar Pradesh and Anr.[i], discussed the provisions of s.173 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (‘CrPC’), i.e., the contents of a chargesheet and the validity of non-bailable warrants issued against the accused.

Facts

  • The judgment in this case was divided into two parts, the first relating to the contents of a chargesheet and the second relating to each case's factual aspects.

  • The First SLP[ii] was filed by the appellant, who had purchased a property but failed to register it or remit the part payment. The challenge in this SLP related to the first information report (‘FIR’) filed by the relatives of the seller of the property, alleging threats to their lives.

  • A chargesheet was subsequently filed in the case. Thereafter, the appellant filed an application before the Allahabad High Court (‘AHC’) seeking its quashing on the grounds of lack of clarity in the charge sheet. The AHC dismissed this application.

  • The Second SLP[iii] arose from a complaint filed by Wakeel Ahmad wherein it was alleged that Imran routinely accepted money in furtherance of bainama agreements and later denied the factum of any such agreement and receipt of money. The anticipatory bail application of the accused was partly allowed, and the police were directed not to arrest the accused until the chargesheet was submitted. The AHC dismissed the anticipatory bail application on the grounds of non-bailable warrants being issued against the accused.

  • The Third SLP[iv] arose out of a criminal complaint filed against the accused, Manager Singh, wherein it was alleged that the accused had attacked the complainant with a helmet and lathi. An FIR was filed under ss. 323,504, and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. A chargesheet was filed, and it was recorded that the grounds for taking cognisance were sufficient. The AHC dismissed the petition filed by the accused under s. 482 of the CrPC.

Held

  • It was held that the investigating officer must make clear and complete entries in all the columns of the chargesheet, thereby providing the court with a clear understanding of the crime committed by the accused. The reliance has been placed on the format prescribed by the state of Uttar Pradesh in the circular dated 20.10.2016 and the decision of the SC in Dablu Kujur v. State of Jharkhand[v].

  • The Chargesheet in the First SLP was quashed, and the appellants were discharged. It was held that no offence of criminal intimidation or breach of trust could be made out.

  • The Second SLP was allowed, and the accused was granted bail. It was held that in criminal offenses, magistrates should exercise caution when examining the facts of the case. If criminal proceedings are initiated merely as a means to apply pressure, such actions should not be encouraged by the judiciary.

  • The Third SLP was partly allowed, and the non-bailable warrants issued were held to be unsustainable and, therefore, quashed. It was held that non-bailable warrants curtail an individual's liberty and, thus, cannot be issued in a routine manner. Non-bailable warrants can be issued in case of heinous offenses or if the accused is likely to evade the law or tamper with evidence.

Our Analysis

Through this decision, the SC held that non-bailable warrants cannot be issued as a standard practice in a routine manner. Such warrants can curtail the liberty of an individual. They should only be issued under exceptional circumstances, such as when the accused may escape the clutches of law or tamper with evidence.





End Notes

[i] 2024 SCC Online SC 726

[ii] SLP (Crl.) No. 1047/2017

[iii] SLP (Crl) No. 5419/2022

[iv] SLP (Crl) No. 9482/2021

[v] 2024 SCC Online SC 269





Authored by Rosy Gupta, Advocate at Metalegal Advocates. The views expressed are personal and do not constitute a legal opinion.

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