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Indian Case Summary

Gurcharan Singh & Ors vs State (Delhi Administration) on 6 December, 1977 – Case Summary

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In the case of Gurcharan Singh & Ors vs State (Delhi Administration) on 6 December 1977, the Supreme Court of India was confronted with a complex issue involving the cancellation of bail granted by the Sessions Judge. The appellants in the case, ranging from the Deputy Inspector General of Police to Police Constables, were accused of being part of a criminal conspiracy to kill a notorious dacoit named Sunder, and causing his death by drowning him in the Yamuna River.

Facts of the Case

The prosecution alleged that the appellants, including Gurcharan Singh (Superintendent of Police), P.S. Bhinder (Deputy Inspector General of Police), Amarjit Singh (Inspector), and Constable Paras Ram, were part of a criminal conspiracy to kill Sunder, a notorious dacoit. Sunder was considered a security risk for Sanjay Gandhi by May 1976. The alleged murder took place on the night of 24th November 1976 while Sunder was in police custody.

The appellants were arrested between June 10, 1977, and July 12, 1977, and the Magistrate declined to release them on bail. They then approached the Sessions Judge under Section 439(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, and secured release on bail. The Delhi Administration moved the High Court under Section 439(2) for cancellation of the bail granted by the Sessions Judge.

Issues Raised

The appellants raised several issues in their appeal:

  1. They argued that the change in language in Section 437(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, compared to Section 497(1) of the old Code, meant that the limitations regarding the granting of bail did not apply to the High Court or the Court of Session when dealing with bail under Section 439 of the new Code.
  2. They contended that under Section 439(2) of the new Code, the High Court could not entertain the application for cancellation of bail, and it was only the Court of Session that was competent to deal with the matter.
  3. They claimed that on the facts of the case, the High Court was not justified in cancelling the bail.

Court’s Observations and Judgment

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that:

  1. The change in language in Section 437(1) of the new Code did not affect the true legal position. The Court held that it was not possible to conclude that the Sessions Judge or the High Court would ignore the guidelines which the Magistrate has necessarily to follow in considering bail of an accused.
  2. The Court clarified that a Court of Session cannot cancel a bail which has already been granted by the High Court unless new circumstances arise during the progress of the trial. However, if a Court of Session had admitted an accused person to bail, the State has two options. It may move the Sessions Judge if certain new circumstances have arisen which were not earlier known to the State. The State may as well approach the High Court being the superior court under s. 439(2) to commit the accused to custody.
  3. The Court held that the High Court had correctly appreciated the entire position and the Sessions Judge did not at the stage the case was before him. The Court would not, therefore, be justified under Article 136 of the Constitution in interfering with the discretion exercised by the High Court in cancelling the bail.

The Court directed that the Magistrate should pass an appropriate order under Section 209 Cr. P. C. without further delay, and that the Court of Sessions should commence trial at an early date and examine all the eye witnesses first and such other material witnesses thereafter as may be produced by the prosecution as early as possible. The trial should proceed day to day

as far as practicable. The Court also observed that after the statements of the eye witnesses and the Panch witness have been recorded, it would be open to the accused to move the Sessions Judge for admitting them to bail.

Key Legal Principles and Interpretations

The Supreme Court, in this case, clarified several key legal principles and interpretations:

  1. The change in language in Section 437(1) of the new Code did not affect the true legal position. The Court held that it was not possible to conclude that the Sessions Judge or the High Court would ignore the guidelines which the Magistrate has necessarily to follow in considering bail of an accused.
  2. The Court clarified that a Court of Session cannot cancel a bail which has already been granted by the High Court unless new circumstances arise during the progress of the trial. However, if a Court of Session had admitted an accused person to bail, the State has two options. It may move the Sessions Judge if certain new circumstances have arisen which were not earlier known to the State. The State may as well approach the High Court being the superior court under s. 439(2) to commit the accused to custody.
  3. The Court held that the High Court had correctly appreciated the entire position and the Sessions Judge did not at the stage the case was before him. The Court would not, therefore, be justified under Article 136 of the Constitution in interfering with the discretion exercised by the High Court in cancelling the bail.

The Court’s decision in this case provides important guidance on the principles governing the grant and cancellation of bail, the role of the High Court and the Sessions Court in this process, and the circumstances under which the High Court can interfere with an order granting bail. It also underscores the importance of considering the nature of the offence, the character of the evidence, the likelihood of the accused fleeing from justice or tampering with witnesses, and other relevant factors when deciding whether to grant or cancel bail.