27 December 2020

filing of a first information report is not a condition precedent to the exercise of the power under Section 438 of Cr.P.C.

(i) Grant of an order of unconditional anticipatory bail would be “plainly contrary to the very terms of Section 438.” Even though the terms of Section 438(1) confer discretion, Section 438(2) “confers on the court the power to include such conditions in the direction as it may think fit in the light of the facts of the particular case, including the conditions mentioned in clauses (i) to (iv) of that sub-section.”

(ii) Grant of an order under Section 438(1) does not per se hamper investigation of an offence; Section 438(1)(i) and (ii) enjoin that an accused/applicant should co-operate with investigation. Sibbia (supra) also stated that courts can fashion appropriate conditions governing bail, as well. One condition can be that if the police make out a case of likely recovery of objects or discovery of facts under Section 27 (of the Evidence Act, 1872), the accused may be taken into custody. Given that there is no formal method prescribed by Section 46 of the Code if recovery is made during a statement (to the police) and pursuant to the accused volunteering the fact, it would be a case of recovery during “deemed arrest” (Para 19 of Sibbia).

(iii) The accused is not obliged to make out a special case for grant of anticipatory bail; reading an otherwise wide power would fetter the court’s discretion. Whenever an application (for relief under Section 438) is moved, discretion has to be always exercised judiciously, and with caution, having regard to the facts of every case. (Para 21, Sibbia).

(iv) While the power of granting anticipatory bail is not ordinary, at the same time, its use is not confined to exceptional cases (Para 22, Sibbia).

(v) It is not justified to require courts to only grant anticipatory bail in special cases made out by accused, since the power is extraordinary, or that several considerations – spelt out in Section 437- or other considerations, are to be kept in mind. (Para 24-25, Sibbia).

(vi) Overgenerous introduction (or reading into) of constraints on the power to grant anticipatory bail would render it Constitutionally vulnerable. Since fair procedure is part of Article 21, the court should not throw the provision (i.e. Section 438) open to challenge “by reading words in it which are not to be found therein.” (Para 26).

(vii) There is no “inexorable rule” that anticipatory bail cannot be granted unless the applicant is the target of mala fides. There are several relevant considerations to be factored in, by the court, while considering whether to grant or refuse anticipatory bail. Nature and seriousness of the proposed charges, the context of the events likely to lead to the making of the charges, a reasonable possibility of the accused’s presence not being secured during trial; a reasonable apprehension that the witnesses might be tampered with, and “the larger interests of the public or the state” are some of the considerations. A person seeking relief (of anticipatory bail) continues to be a man presumed to be innocent. (Para 31, Sibbia).

(viii) There can be no presumption that any class of accused- i.e. those accused of particular crimes, or those belonging to the poorer sections, are likely to abscond. (Para 32, Sibbia).

(ix) Courts should exercise their discretion while considering applications for anticipatory bail (as they do in the case of bail). It would be unwise to divest or limit their discretion by prescribing “inflexible rules of general application.”. (Para 33, Sibbia).

(x) The apprehension of an applicant, who seeks anticipatory bail (about his imminent or possible arrest) should be based on reasonable grounds, and rooted on objective facts or materials, capable of examination and evaluation, by the court, and not based on vague un-spelt apprehensions. (Para 35, Sibbia).

(xi) The grounds for seeking anticipatory bail should be examined by the High Court or Court of Session, which should not leave the question for decision by the concerned Magistrate. (Para 36, Sibbia).

filing of a first information report is not a condition precedent to the exercise of the power under Section 438

(xii) Filing of FIR is not a condition precedent for exercising power under Section 438; it can be done on a showing of reasonable belief of imminent arrest (of the applicant). (Para 37, Sibbia).

(xiii) Anticipatory bail can be granted even after filing of an FIR- as long as the applicant is not arrested. However, after arrest, an application for anticipatory bail is not maintainable. (Para 38-39, Sibbia).

(xiv) A blanket order under Section 438, directing the police to not arrest the applicant, “wherever arrested and for whatever offence” should not be issued. An order based on reasonable apprehension relating to specific facts (though not spelt out with exactness) can be made. A blanket order would seriously interfere with the duties of the police to enforce the law and prevent commission of offences in the future. (Para 40-41, Sibbia).

(xv) The public prosecutor should be issued notice, upon considering an application under Section 438; an ad interim order can be made. The application “should be re-examined in the light of the respective contentions of the parties.” The ad interim order too must conform to the requirements of the section and suitable conditions should be imposed on the applicant even at that stage. “Should the operation of an order passed under Section 438(1) be limited in point of time? Not necessarily. The court may, if there are reasons for doing so, limit the operation of the order to a short period until after the filing of an FIR in respect of the matter covered by the order. The applicant may in such cases be directed to obtain an order of bail under Section 437 or 439 of the Code within a reasonably short period after the filing of the FIR as aforesaid. But this need not be followed as an invariable rule. The normal rule should be not to limit the operation of the order in relation to a period of time.” (Para 42, Sibbia).[Para No.45]


    Having regard to the above discussion, it is clarified that the court should keep the following points as guiding principles, in dealing with applications under Section 438, Cr. PC:

(a) As held in Sibbia, when a person apprehends arrest and approaches a court for anticipatory bail, his apprehension (of arrest), has to be based on concrete facts (and not vague or general allegations) relatable a specific offence or particular of offences. Applications for anticipatory bail should contain clear and essential facts relating to the offence, and why the applicant reasonably apprehends his or her arrest, as well as his version of the facts. These are important for the court which considering the application, to extent and reasonableness of the threat or apprehension, its gravity or seriousness and the appropriateness of any condition that may have to be imposed. It is not a necessary condition that an application should be moved only after an FIR is filed; it can be moved earlier, so long as the facts are clear and there is reasonable basis for apprehending arrest.

(b) The court, before which an application under Section 438, is filed, depending on the seriousness of the threat (of arrest) as a measure of caution, may issue notice to the public prosecutor and obtain facts, even while granting limited interim anticipatory bail.

(c) Section 438 Cr. PC does not compel or oblige courts to impose conditions limiting relief in terms of time, or upon filing of FIR, or recording of statement of any witness, by the police, during investigation or inquiry, etc. While weighing and considering an application (for grant of anticipatory bail) the court has to consider the nature of the offence, the role of the person, the likelihood of his influencing the course of investigation, or tampering with evidence (including intimidating witnesses), likelihood of fleeing justice (such as leaving the country), etc. The courts would be justified – and ought to impose conditions spelt out in Section 437 (3), Cr. PC [by virtue of Section 438 (2)]. The necessity to impose other restrictive conditions, would have to be weighed on a case by case basis, and depending upon the materials produced by the state or the investigating agency. Such special or other restrictive conditions may be imposed if the case or cases warrant, but should not be imposed in a routine manner, in all cases. Likewise, conditions which limit the grant of anticipatory bail may be granted, if they are required in the facts of any case or cases; however, such limiting conditions may not be invariably imposed.

(d) Courts ought to be generally guided by the considerations such nature and gravity of the offences, the role attributed to the applicant, and the facts of the case, while assessing whether to grant anticipatory bail, or refusing it. Whether to grant or not is a matter of discretion; equally whether, and if so, what kind of special conditions are to be imposed (or not imposed) are dependent on facts of the case, and subject to the discretion of the court.

(e) Anticipatory bail granted can, depending on the conduct and behavior of the accused, continue after filing of the charge sheet till end of trial. Also orders of anticipatory bail should not be “blanket” in the sense that it should not enable the accused to commit further offences and claim relief. It should be confined to the offence or incident, for which apprehension of arrest is sought, in relation to a specific incident. It cannot operate in respect of a future incident that involves commission of an offence.

(f) Orders of anticipatory bail do not in any manner limit or restrict the rights or duties of the police or investigating agency, to investigate into the charges against the person who seeks and is granted pre-arrest bail.

(g) The observations in Sibbia regarding “limited custody” or “deemed custody” to facilitate the requirements of the investigative authority, would be sufficient for the purpose of fulfilling the provisions of Section 27, in the event of recovery of an article, or discovery of a fact, which is relatable to a statement made during such event (i.e. deemed custody). In such event, there is no question (or necessity) of asking the accused to separately surrender and seek regular bail. Sibbia (supra) had observed that “if and when the occasion arises, it may be possible for the prosecution to claim the benefit of Section 27 of the Evidence Act in regard to a discovery of facts made in pursuance of information supplied by a person released on bail by invoking the principle stated by this Court in State of U.P. v Deoman Upadhyaya.”

(h) It is open to the police or the investigating agency to move the court concerned, which granted anticipatory bail, in the first instance, for a direction under Section 439 (2) to arrest the accused, in the event of violation of any term, such as absconding, non-cooperating during investigation, evasion, intimidation or inducement to witnesses with a view to influence outcome of the investigation or trial, etc. The court – in this context is the court which grants anticipatory bail, in the first instance, according to prevailing authorities.

(i) The correctness of an order granting bail, can be considered by the appellate or superior court at the behest of the state or investigating agency, and set aside on the ground that the court granting it did not consider material facts or crucial circumstances. (See Prakash Kadam & Etc. Etc vs Ramprasad Vishwanath Gupta & Anr52; Jai Prakash Singh (supra) State through C.B.I. vs. Amarmani Tripathi53 ). This does not amount to “cancellation” in terms of Section 439 (2), Cr. PC.

(j) The judgment in Mhetre (and other similar decisions) restrictive conditions cannot be imposed at all, at the time of granting anticipatory bail are hereby overruled. Likewise, the decision in Salauddin and subsequent decisions (including K.L. Verma, Nirmal Jeet Kaur) which state that such restrictive conditions, or terms limiting the grant of anticipatory bail, to a period of time are hereby overruled.[Para No.78]

Supreme Court of India

Sushila Aggarwal


State (Nct Of Delhi)

 (2020) 5 SCC 1

2020 CrLJ 1590

{Reiterated Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia and others v. State of Punjab (1980) 2 SCC 565}

Adv. Jainodin's Legal Blog