Supreme Court: “Not to Arrest” or “No Coercive Steps” Orders Should Not Be Passed by High Courts

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Case Name: M/s Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. vs. State of Maharashtra [CrA 330 0f 2021]

Excerpt

In a judgement on Tuesday (April 13, 2021), the Supreme Court of India cautioned the High Courts on passing the judgements regarding arrests while dismissing/ disposing of the quashing petition under Section 482 of CrPC and Article 226 of the Constitution of India.  

Facts of the Case

In the present case, an FIR was filed by the Appellant against the Respondent on the grounds that the offence of forgery, fabrication of board resolution and fraudulent sale of valuable property which belonged to the Appellant company, Nazaribagh palace, was committed by the Respondent.  Apprehending the arrest, the accused, before the trial Court, filed for anticipatory bail and the interim protection was granted by the learned sessions’ judge and it was further extended from time to time for a period of one year. 

During the pendency of anticipatory bail, the accused filed a petition before the High Court of Bombay under Article 226 of the Constitution of India r/w Sec. 482 of CrPC. The Division Bench of High Court ordered that “In respect of the said FIR, no coercive matter should be adopted against the Petitioners” and that the Sessions Court should not get influenced by the decision while disposing of the matter of anticipatory bail. Feeling aggrieved by the decision of the High court, an appeal was preferred in Supreme Court.

Pleadings before the Court

It was submitted by the learned counsel on behalf of the Appellant that in the facts and circumstances of the case, such a broad order from the High Court prohibiting the investigating officer from taking coercive steps was unjustified. The High Court gave no reason for passing such an interim order of “no coercive steps to be adopted/taken” against the original accused. It was further submitted that the High Court should have recognized that the original accused – Respondent nos. 2 to 4 in this case – was facing extremely serious charges under IPC and that the FIR was transferred to the Economic Offences Wing, which was conducting the investigation. It was also submitted that the right to grant a stay of prosecution and trial is a very unusual power granted to the High Courts, and it should be used sparingly to discourage misuse of procedure and promote the ends of justice.

On the other hand, the learned counsel on behalf of the Respondent submitted that after reviewing the facts and circumstances, it is clear that this is a civil case, and the High Court made no errors in its decision. It is justified for the High Court to stay the investigation and/or issue an interim order of stay of arrest and/or “no coercive steps to be taken.” In addition, if the Court believes that further investigation or litigation in connection with the FIR would trigger the plaintiff unwarranted and unjustified abuse, the Court may issue a “no coercive measures” order. It was further submitted that the High Court’s power to order a stay of investigation or trial in deserving cases is unquestionable, and if a stay is granted, a speaking order demonstrating that the case is of exceptional nature must be given.

Court’s Observation

The bench of the Supreme Court comprising  JusticesDY Chandrachud, MR Shah and Sanjiv Khanna observed that even if the High Court is prima facie convinced that an exceptional case exists for granting an interim stay of further investigation in a petition filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or Article 226 of the Constitution, it must provide brief reasons why such an interim order is warranted and/or necessary. 

It was further observed that even after the quashing petitions under Section 482 Cr.P.C. or Article 226 of the Constitution of India are dismissed, many High Courts are passing such orders, notwithstanding the rule 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. The law declared/established by this Court is binding on all High Courts, and failure to obey the law established by this Court could result in serious consequences in the administration of justice.

Court’s Judgement

Along with several guidelines, the Supreme Court of India instructed the High Courts to refrain from issuing orders such as “no arrest” or “no coercive measures to be taken” before the investigation is concluded and the final report is submitted, while ignoring quashing petitions filed under Section 482 CrPC and/or Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.

Click here for the judgement


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