SC flags practice of some courts remanding accused into custody of probe agencies after appearance on summons
The top court said this while hearing the appeals of four accused challenging Allahabad High Court orders that rejected their pleas for pre-arrest bail in a case probed by the CBI
The Supreme Court has flagged the issue of some courts seemingly following "a practice" of remanding the accused into the custody the moment they appear before them in response to the summons, saying the correctness of this practice needs to be tested "in an appropriate case".
The top court said this while hearing the appeals of four accused challenging Allahabad High Court orders that rejected their pleas for pre-arrest bail in a case probed by the CBI.
The Supreme Court noted that the appellants fear arrest not at the behest of the CBI but at the behest of the trial court. It ordered that the appellants be released on bail in the event of their arrest subject to terms and conditions as may be imposed by the special court, including the condition for the surrender of the passport, if any.
"Suffice for the present to note that it is not the CBI which is seeking their custody, but the appellants apprehend that they may be remanded to custody by the trial court and this is why they seek protection. We must keep this in mind while deciding the fate of these appeals," it said.
"This is for the reason that in some parts of the country, there seems to be a practice followed by courts to remand the accused to custody, the moment they appear in response to the summoning order. The correctness of such a practice has to be tested in an appropriate case," a bench of Justices V Ramasubramanian and Pankaj Mithal said in its verdict delivered on March 20.
Hearing the matter, the bench noted that an FIR was registered in June 2019 at the instance of the Corporation Bank for various offences, including cheating and criminal conspiracy. But none of the four accused was ever taken into custody by CBI and it appeared that they had joined the probe and cooperated with the agency.
The CBI filed the final report in the case in December 2021, after which the special court issued a summons to the accused to appear before it on March 7 last year. Fearing arrest, the appellants moved bail applications in the special court and later in the high court but they did not get relief, the apex court said.
It said though the CBI counsel has vehemently opposed the bail pleas, there are at least three factors that tilt the balance in favour of the appellants.
One of the factors, the bench said, was the CBI, admittedly, did not require their custodial interrogation during the period of the investigation, that is between the filing of the FIR and the filing of the final report, and therefore it is difficult to accept the contention at this stage that the custody of the appellants may be required.
According to the FIR, a company had secured credit facilities from a consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India, but the account of the firm started showing signs of sickness and was classified as NPA in November 2012 with an outstanding book balance of over Rs 92 crore.
It was alleged the account was classified by the bank as fraudulent in February 2015. And one of the properties mortgaged to the bank, by third-party guarantors, was later found to be involved in litigation and another property was found to have been grossly overvalued.