Manoj Kumar Khokhar vs State of Rajasthan

INTRODUCTION

The supreme court while deciding the case of Manoj Kumar Khokhar vs State of Rajasthan said that a court while deciding a bail application cannot completely divorce its decision from material aspects of the case, as it set aside a Rajasthan High court order granting bail to a man who allegedly strangled a disabled man.

The three-judge bench of supreme court in the judgement of Bikramjit Singh v State of Punjab

(Cri. App No. 667 of 2020) held that, “there is a fundamental right granted to an accused person to be released on bail once the conditions of the first proviso to Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure are fulfilled. Moreover, life and personal liberty of an individual must be paramount.”


FACTS OF THE CASE

• The allegation against the accused is under section 302 of the IPC with regard to the murder of the deceased Ram Swaroop Khokhar, the father of the informant-appellant who was a disabled person.

• Thus, the offence alleged against the accused is of a grave nature. The accusation against the accused is that he overpowered the deceased who was suffering from impairment of both his legs, pinned him to the ground, sat on him and throttled his neck.

• As per the post-mortem report, the cause of death was ante-mortem strangulation. It is also the case of the appellant that the accused is a person exercising significant political influence in the Bhopawaspachar village and that owing to the same, the informant found it difficult to get an FIR registered against him.

• That the accused was arrested only following a protest outside a police station demanding his arrest. Thus, the possibility of the accused threatening or otherwise influencing the witnesses, if on bail, cannot be ruled out.

• That the accused had earlier preferred applications seeking bail, under section 437 of the CrPC before the Court of the Additional Metropolitan Magistrate, Jaipur, on two occasions. The same came to be rejected by orders dated 23rd January, 2020 and 6th March, 2020.

• The accused had also preferred a bail application under section 439 of the CrPC which was rejected by the Additional Sessions Judge, Jaipur Metropolis by order dated 12th March, 2020 having regard to the gravity of the offences alleged against the accused.

ISSUES

• According to the appellant the High Court of Rajasthan did not take into account the gravity of the crime committed by the accused; here, Ram Narayan Jat, that the high court did not consider the way in which the crime was committed against a person incapable of defending himself owing to physical incapability.

• It was contended by the senior counsel for the appellant Sri. Basant R that the High Court of Rajasthan has not assigned reasons for grant of bail in the present case.

• The high court in a very cryptic order, de hors any reasoning has granted bail to the respondent-accused.

• The bail order by the High Court was contrary to the settled principles of law and judgements of this court.


RULE

• In India, the notion of bail is addressed in sections 436 to 439 of the Criminal Procedure Code. In layman's terms, bail refers to the release of an accused from judicial custody in exchange for a guarantee from the accused to the court that he would appear in court to face the charges levelled against him, such as a personal bond or a bail bond. Bail is a legal procedure that ensures that the accused appears in court and is ready to stand trial.

• The following are some commonly acknowledged elements that the court considers when granting bail for non-bailable offences:

1) The severity of the penalty if the accused is found guilty,

2) If bail is granted, the chances of the accused fleeing are high.

3) If granted bail, the accused has a higher chance of tampering with witnesses and evidence.

4) The accused's health, age, and gender while seeking bail.

5) The likelihood of the offender committing further such offences if released on bond, and so forth.

ARGUEMENTS

Appellant Council’s Part :-

1. It was urged that the High Court has not exercised its discretion judiciously in granting bail to the respondent accused. That the High Court has not taken into consideration the gravity of the offence alleged and the grave manner in which the offence was committed against a person incapable of defending himself owing to physical impairment.

2. The previous enmity between the family of the accused and the deceased has not been taken into the consideration by the high court in the context of the allegations against the accused with regard to the grant of bail. That there is a possibility of the accused, having high political influence of absconding or threatening the witnesses or the family of the deceased, thereby having a bearing on the trial, if the released on the bail could not be ruled out. The Police were initially reluctant to even register an FIR against the accused. In fact, the accused was arrested by the police only as a result of the protest carried out by the family members of the deceased outside the police station.

3. By replying upon the judgement of Prasanta Kumar Sarkar vs. Ashis Chatterjee (2010) 14

SCC 496 the appellant’s council brought the circumstances laid down by the Supreme court under which an order granting bail may be set aside. The factors which out to have guided the court’s decision to grant bail have also been detailed as under :

“It is trite that this Court does not, normally, interfere with an order passed by the High Court granting or rejecting bail to the accused. However, it is equally incumbent upon the High Court to exercise its discretion judiciously, cautiously and strictly in compliance with the basic principles laid down in a plethora of decisions of this Court on the point. It is well settled that, among other circumstances, the factors to be borne in mind while considering an application for bail are: (i) whether there is any prima facie or reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed the offence; (ii) nature and gravity of the accusation; (iii) severity of the punishment in the event of conviction; (iv) danger of the accused absconding or fleeing, if released on bail; (v) character, behaviour, means, position and standing of the accused; (vi) likelihood of the offence being repeated; (vii) reasonable apprehension of the witnesses being influenced; and (viii) danger, of course, of justice being thwarted by grant of bail.”

Respondent Council’s Part :-

1. The respondent-accused counsel relying upon the judgement of Niranjan Singh and Anr. vs Prabhakar Rajaram Kharote and Ors, [1980] 2 SCC 559 contended that a court while deciding a bail application should not do an elaborate discussion on merits of the case as detailed discussion of facts at initial and pre-trial stage may lead to prejudice fair trial.

2. The counsel further added that the investigation related the FIR is complete in all aspects and charge sheet has been also submitted. Therefore, there is no question as to influencing any witness or tampering with the evidence. Also, the accused is a well-known person in the society and has deep roots in society as well and will therefore not attempt to abscond.

3. Further the accused has not been involved in any incidents in the past and has no history of crimes and the incident in question occurred because of the sudden scuffle between the deceased and the accused and therefore, prima facie, offence under section 300 of the IPC has not been made out against the accused. Hence, the impugned order granting bail to the respondent-accused does not call for interference by this court.

JUDGEMENT

Having considered the aforesaid facts of the present case in light of the judgments cited above, we do not think that this case is a fit case for grant of bail to the respondent-accused, having regard to the seriousness of the allegations against him. Strangely, the State of Rajasthan has not filed any appeal against the impugned order.

The High Court has lost sight of the aforesaid material aspects of the case and has, by a very cryptic and casual order, de hors coherent reasoning, granted bail to the accused. We find that the High Court was not right in allowing the application for bail filed by the respondent- accused. Hence the impugned order dated 7 th May, 2020 is set aside. The appeal is allowed.

The respondent accused is on bail. His bail bond stands cancelled and he is directed to surrender before the concerned jail authorities within a period of two weeks from today.

Bench – M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna



This article is written by Shashank Upadhyay of Rajiv Gandhi National University Of Law, Patiala.

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