ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has reiterated that courts dealing with bail applications should decline the request only when they find that the release of an under-trial accused might pose a threat or danger to society.
“The main purpose of keeping an under-trial accused in detention is to secure his attendance at the trial so that the trial is conducted and concluded expeditiously or to protect and safeguard the society,” observed Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah in a judgement he wrote on Saturday.
The observations came on an appeal filed be one Iftikhar Ahmad who is accused of committing a fraud by preparing forged sale deed of a hospital building in Lahore, which he had rented, to show that he was owner of the property. The petition was taken up and heard by a three-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Shah, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed.
The appeal was filed against the April 19 Lahore High Court’s rejection of the post-arrest bail petition filed by the accused. The petitioner was involved in a case registered at the Batapur police station in Lahore for offences under Sections 420 (cheating and dishonesty), 468 (forgery) and 471 (using forged document as genuine) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Says plea should be rejected only when it is found that accused may escape trial or pose threat to society
“What concerns us, in the present case, is that the courts below have not exercised their discretion while declining bail to the petitioner under Section 497(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which prohibits the grant of bail to accused if involved in offences punishable with death or imprisonment of ten years or over,” observed Justice Shah.
The courts below viewed the case against the petitioner under Section 497(2) of CrPC (when sufficient grounds exists for further inquiry) and simply relied for declining bail on the incriminating material available on record to connect the petitioner with the commission of the offences alleged, the four-page judgement said, adding that all offences alleged against the petitioner did not fall within the prohibitory clause of subsection (1) of Section 497 of CrPC and thus attracted the principle that grant of bail in such offences was a rule and refusal an exception as authoritatively enunciated by the Supreme Court in several cases.
Accused were kept under detention when there was apprehension of repetition of the offence or commission of any other untoward act by them, the judgement said.
Therefore, to make the case of an accused person fall under the exception to the rule of grant of bail in offences not covered by the prohibitory cause of Section 497(1), the prosecution had to essentially show from the material available on record such circumstances that might frustrate the trial process, if the accused was released on bail, it added.
Justice Shah cited earlier judgements in which the apex court had illustrated that the bail in such circumstances should be denied only if there was a possibility that the accused might abscond to escape trial, or indulge in tampering with the prosecution evidence or influencing the prosecution witnesses to obstruct the course of justice, or might repeat the offence keeping in view his previous criminal record or the desperate manner in which he had prima facie acted in the commission of offence alleged.
A court which dealt with an application for grant of bail in an offence not falling within the prohibitory clause of Section 497(1) of CrPC must apply its judicious mind to the facts and circumstances of the case and to the conduct of the accused, the judgement said. And decline to exercise the discretion of granting bail to the accused in such offence only when it found any of these circumstances or some other striking circumstance that impinged on the proceedings of the trial or posed a threat or danger to society, justifying his case within the exception to the rule, as the circumstances mentioned above were not exhaustive and the facts and circumstances of each case were to be evaluated for application of the said principle, it added.
In the present case, neither of the courts below, including the high court, had mentioned any circumstance that might bring the case of the petitioner under the exception of declining bail in offences not falling within the prohibitory clause, the judgement said.
Resultantly, the petitioner was admitted to post-arrest bail subject to his furnishing bail bond in the sum of Rs500,000 with two sureties in the similar amount, the judgement said.
It expressing the hope that the trial court would expeditiously proceed with the trial in accordance with the law, and in case of abuse or misuse of the concession of bail by the petitioner, including causing delay in conclusion of the trial, the prosecution might seek cancellation of bail on the grounds of the competent of court.
Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2021