Key takeaways from the SC verdict in Arnab Goswami bail matter

  1. The Court starts off by examining the scope of scrutiny & jurisdiction of the High Court – while acting under Article 226 of the Constitution and Section 482 of the CrPC. 
  2. The Court then examines the true import of the decision in Habib Jeelani (SC) which advises judicial restraint in such matters and cautions against routine grant of bail in 482/226 proceedings, when the accused is in custody pursuant to judicial orders, and the provisions relating to bail provide adequate and sufficient remedies. The Court in Habib Jeelani also cautioned the courts against granting orders of ‘stay of investigation’ at the drop of a hat. 
  3. SC in Arnab held that the Bombay High Court (“BHC”) was unduly moved by Habib Jeelani’s case and failed to see it in the right perspective.
  4. SC said that BHC, before dismissing Arnab’s petition, should have at-least evaluated the case and prima facie enquired into the question as to whether ingredients of S.306 IPC are made out, or not.  
  5. This, according to SC, was a fatal flaw and a total abdication of its constitutional responsibilities by the High Court.
  6. SC – then- evaluated the contents of the FIR itself in order to see if the ingredients of 306 of the IPC are made out, or not.  
  7. The Court, while examining settled precedent on Section 306 of the IPC, held that, in order to make out a charge u/s 306 of the IPC, there must be proof of : an active intent and role on the part of the accused to lead/compel the deceased to commit suicide. There should be, in other words, a proximate causal link between instigation and suicide. (The Court examines a number of cases u/s 306 of the IPC to distill the legal standard required to be met in order to make out a case u/s 306 of the IPC) 
  8. On the facts of the case at hand, the court found that, prima facie, a case under Section 306 of the IPC was not made out. 
  9. SC reaffirmed that protection from arrest/bail can indeed be granted in a petition under Article 226 and the factors to be kept in mind have been recapitulated in Para 57 of the Judgment. (Factors are similar to that of grant of ordinary bail). 
  10. SC held that HCs must exercise this power with caution and circumspection and is true that jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution is not meant to be a ready substitute of the proper remedy of bail. 
  11. Having said that, SC held, that while deciding a petition u/s 482 of the CrPC & Article 226 of the Constitution – the court must prima facie evaluate the case on the basis of settled principles of quashing of FIR. (Bhajan Lal, etc)
  12. If a HC doesn’t do that, it abdicates its constitutional duty and function as a protector of liberty. 
  13. The Court found – on facts – that not only was a prima facie cause of abetment of suicide not made out but also found that Arnab was not a flight risk and there is no reason to believe that he may tamper with evidences, and witnesses. 
  14. In the last few paragraphs, SC takes a step back and talks about the importance of human liberty and the role of Courts in protection of liberties of citizens – especially in those cases where the criminal justice system is suspected to be weaponised to harass and settle scores with individuals.
  15. SC in Arnab also emphasised the predominant role of district judiciary in protection of liberties since they function as the first point of interface of the citizen with the criminal justice system. 
  16. SC in Arnab also expressed concerns over the sheer number of bail applications pending in both High Courts and District Courts – throughout the country – and the implications this has on personal liberty of citizens. 
  • Arnab Manoranjan Goswami v. State of Maharashtra, SLP (Crl) No. 5598 of 2020, date of decision : 27 November, 2020.