NO AUTOMATIC ARREST OF THE ACCUSED IN 498A IPC CASES

                                                                                  REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1277  OF 2014

(@SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRL.) No.9127 of 2013) 

ARNESH KUMAR                            ..... APPELLANT

VERSUS

STATE OF BIHAR & ANR.            .... RESPONDENTS

 

J U D G M E N T

Chandramauli Kr. Prasad

      The petitioner apprehends his arrest in a case under Section 498-A  of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter called as IPC)  and  Section  4  of the Dowry Prohibition  Act,  1961.   The  maximum  sentence  provided  under Section 498-A IPC is imprisonment for a  term  which  may  extend  to  three years and fine whereas the maximum sentence provided under Section 4 of  the Dowry Prohibition Act is two years and with fine.

      Petitioner happens to be the husband of respondent no.2  Sweta  Kiran. The marriage between them was solemnized on 1st  July, 2007. His attempt  to secure anticipatory bail has failed and hence he has  knocked  the  door  of this Court by way of this Special Leave Petition.

      Leave granted.

      In sum and substance, allegation levelled  by  the  wife  against  the appellant  is  that  demand  of  Rupees  eight  lacs,  a  maruti   car,   an air-conditioner, television set etc.  was  made  by  her  mother-in-law  and father-in-law and when this fact was brought to the appellant’s  notice,  he supported his mother and threatened to marry another  woman.   It  has  been alleged that she was  driven  out  of  the  matrimonial  home  due  to  non-fulfilment of the demand of dowry.

      Denying these allegations, the appellant preferred an application  for anticipatory bail which was earlier rejected by the learned  Sessions  Judge and thereafter by the High Court.

      There is phenomenal increase in matrimonial disputes in recent  years.  The institution of marriage is greatly revered in  this  country.   Section 498-A of the IPC was introduced with avowed object to combat the  menace  of harassment to a woman at the hands of her husband and  his  relatives.   The fact that Section 498-A is a cognizable and non-bailable  offence  has  lent it a dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as  weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives.  The simplest way to harass  is  to get the husband and his relatives  arrested  under  this  provision.   In  a quite number of cases, bed-ridden grand-fathers  and  grand-mothers  of  the husbands, their sisters living abroad for decades are arrested.   “Crime  in India  2012   Statistics”  published  by  National  Crime  Records   Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs shows arrest of 1,97,762  persons  all  over  India during the year 2012 for offence under Section 498-A of the IPC,  9.4%  more than the  year  2011.   Nearly  a  quarter  of  those  arrested  under  this provision in 2012 were women i.e. 47,951  which  depicts  that  mothers  and sisters of the husbands were liberally included in their  arrest  net.   Its share is 6% out of the total persons arrested  under  the  crimes  committed under Indian Penal Code.  It accounts for 4.5%  of  total  crimes  committed under  different  sections  of  penal  code,  more  than  any  other  crimes excepting theft and hurt.   The  rate  of  charge-sheeting  in  cases  under Section 498A, IPC is as high as 93.6%, while the  conviction  rate  is  only 15%, which is lowest across all  heads.   As  many  as  3,72,706  cases  are pending trial of which on current estimate, nearly 3,17,000  are  likely  to result in acquittal.

       Arrest brings humiliation, curtails freedom and  cast  scars  forever. Law makers know it so also the  police.  There is a battle  between  the  law makers and the police and it seems that police has not learnt  its  lesson;  the lesson implicit and embodied in the Cr.PC.  It has not come out  of  its colonial  image  despite  six  decades  of  independence,  it   is   largely considered as a tool of harassment, oppression and surely not  considered  a friend of public.  The need for caution in exercising the drastic  power  of arrest has been emphasized time and again by  Courts  but  has  not  yielded desired result. Power to arrest greatly  contributes  to  its  arrogance  so also the failure of the Magistracy to check it.  Not only  this,  the  power of arrest is one  of  the  lucrative  sources  of  police  corruption.   The attitude to arrest first and then proceed with the rest is  despicable.   It has become a handy tool to the police officers who lack sensitivity  or  act with oblique motive.

      Law Commissions, Police Commissions and this Court in a  large  number of judgments emphasized the need to maintain a  balance  between  individual liberty and societal order while exercising the  power of arrest.      Police officers make arrest as they believe that they possess the power to  do  so.

As the arrest curtails freedom, brings humiliation and casts scars  forever, we feel differently.   We  believe  that  no  arrest  should  be  made  only because the offence is non-bailable and cognizable  and  therefore,   lawful for the police officers to do so.  The existence of the power to  arrest  is one thing, the justification for the exercise of it is quite another.  Apart from power to arrest, the police  officers  must  be  able  to  justify  the reasons thereof.  No arrest can be made  in  a  routine  manner  on  a  mere allegation of commission of an offence made against a person.  It  would  be prudent and wise for a police officer that  no  arrest  is  made  without  a reasonable  satisfaction  reached  after  some  investigation  as   to   the genuineness of the allegation. Despite this legal position, the  Legislature did not find  any  improvement.   Numbers  of  arrest  have  not  decreased. Ultimately, the Parliament had to intervene and  on  the  recommendation  of the 177th Report of the Law Commission submitted in the year  2001,  Section 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (for  short  ‘Cr.PC),  in  the  present form  came  to  be  enacted.   It  is  interesting  to  note  that  such   a recommendation was made by the Law Commission in its 152nd and 154th  Report submitted as back in the  year  1994.   The  value  of  the  proportionality permeates the amendment relating to arrest.  As the offence  with  which  we are concerned in the present appeal, provides for a  maximum  punishment  of imprisonment which may extend to seven years  and  fine,  Section  41(1)(b), Cr.PC which is relevant for the purpose reads as follows:

“41. When police may arrest without  warrant.-(1)  Any  police  officer  may without an order from a Magistrate and without a warrant, arrest any  person –

(a)x         x          x         x          x      x

(b)against  whom  a  reasonable  complaint  has  been  made,   or   credible information has been received, or a reasonable suspicion exists that he  has committed a cognizable offence  punishable  with  imprisonment  for  a  term which may be less than seven years  or  which  may  extend  to  seven  years

whether with or without fine, if the  following  conditions  are  satisfied, namely :-

(i)   x x x x x

(ii) the police officer is satisfied that such arrest is necessary – to prevent such person from committing any further offence; or  for proper investigation of the offence; or to prevent  such  person  from  causing  the  evidence  of  the  offence  to disappear or tampering with such evidence in any manner; or

to prevent such person from making any inducement, threat or promise to  any person acquainted with the facts of the case so  as  to  dissuade  him  from disclosing such facts to the Court or to the police officer; or as unless such person is  arrested,  his  presence  in  the  Court  whenever required cannot be ensured, and the police officer shall record while making such  arrest,  his  reasons in writing:

Provided that a police officer shall, in all cases where  the  arrest  of  a person is not required under the provisions of this sub-section, record  the reasons in writing for not making the arrest.

X           x           x         x          x           x

From a plain reading of the  aforesaid  provision,  it  is  evident  that  a person accused of offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which  may be less than seven years or which may extend to seven years with or  without fine, cannot be arrested by the police  officer  only  on  its  satisfaction that such person had committed the offence punishable as aforesaid.   Police officer before arrest, in such cases has to be further satisfied  that  such arrest is necessary to prevent  such  person  from  committing  any  further offence; or for proper investigation of the case; or to prevent the  accused from causing the evidence of the offence to  disappear;  or  tampering  with such evidence in any manner; or to  prevent  such  person  from  making  any inducement, threat or promise to a  witness  so  as  to  dissuade  him  from disclosing such facts to the Court or the police  officer;  or  unless  such accused person is arrested, his presence  in  the  court  whenever  required cannot be ensured.  These are the conclusions, which one may reach based  on facts.  Law mandates the police officer to state the facts  and  record  the reasons in writing which led him to come to a conclusion covered by  any  of the provisions aforesaid, while making such arrest.   Law  further  requires the police officers to record the reasons in  writing  for  not  making  the arrest.  In pith and core, the  police  office  before  arrest  must  put  a question to himself, why arrest?  Is it really required?   What  purpose  it will serve?  What object it will achieve?  It is only after these  questions are addressed and one  or  the  other  conditions  as   enumerated  above  is satisfied, the power of arrest needs  to  be  exercised.   In  fine,  before arrest first the police officers should have reason to believe on the  basis of information and material that the  accused  has  committed  the  offence.  Apart from this, the police officer has to be  satisfied  further  that  the arrest is necessary for one or the more purposes  envisaged  by  sub-clauses (a) to (e) of clause (1) of Section 41 of Cr.PC. 

           An accused arrested  without  warrant  by  the  police  has  the constitutional right under Article 22(2) of the Constitution  of  India  and Section 57, Cr.PC to be produced before the Magistrate  without  unnecessary delay and in no circumstances beyond 24 hours excluding the  time  necessary for the journey.  During the course of investigation of a case,  an  accused can be kept in detention beyond a  period  of  24  hours  only  when  it  is authorised by the Magistrate in exercise of power under Section  167  Cr.PC. The power to authorise detention is a very solemn function.  It affects  the liberty and freedom of citizens and needs to be exercised  with  great  care and caution. Our experience tells us that  it  is  not  exercised  with  the seriousness it deserves. In many of the cases, detention is authorised in  a routine,  casual  and  cavalier  manner.   Before  a  Magistrate  authorizes detention under Section 167, Cr.PC, he has to be first  satisfied  that  the arrest made is legal and in accordance with law and all  the  constitutional rights of the person arrested is satisfied.  If the arrest effected  by  the police officer does not satisfy the requirements of Section 41 of the  Code, Magistrate is duty bound not to authorise his further detention and  release the accused.  In other  words,  when  an  accused  is  produced  before  the Magistrate,  the police officer effecting the arrest is required to  furnish to the Magistrate, the facts, reasons and its  conclusions  for  arrest  and the Magistrate in turn is to  be  satisfied  that  condition  precedent  for arrest under Section 41 Cr.PC has been satisfied and it is  only  thereafter that he will authorise the detention of an accused.  The  Magistrate  before authorising detention will record its own satisfaction, may be in brief  but  the said satisfaction must reflect from  its  order.   It  shall  never  be based upon the ipse dixit of the police officer, for example,  in  case  the police officer considers the arrest necessary to prevent  such  person  from committing any further offence or for proper  investigation of  the  case  or for preventing an accused from tampering with evidence or making  inducement etc., the police officer shall furnish to  the  Magistrate  the  facts,  the reasons and materials on the basis of which the police officer  had  reached its conclusion.  Those shall be perused by the Magistrate while  authorizing the detention and only after recording its satisfaction in writing that  the Magistrate will authorise the detention of the accused.   In  fine,  when  a suspect is  arrested  and  produced  before  a  Magistrate  for  authorizing detention, the Magistrate has  to  address  the  question  whether  specific reasons have been recorded for arrest and if so, prima facie  those  reasons are relevant and secondly a reasonable conclusion could at  all  be  reached by the police officer that one or the  other  conditions  stated  above  are attracted.  To  this  limited  extent  the  Magistrate  will  make  judicial scrutiny.

              Another  provision  i.e.  Section  41A  Cr.PC  aimed  to  avoid unnecessary arrest or threat of arrest looming large on accused requires  to be vitalised.   Section 41A  as  inserted  by  Section  6  of  the  Code  of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2008(Act 5 of 2009), which  is  relevant in the context reads as follows:

“41A. Notice of appearance before police  officer.-(1)  The  police  officer shall, in all cases where the arrest of a person is not required  under  the provisions of sub-section (1) of Section 41, issue a  notice  directing  the person against whom a  reasonable  complaint  has  been  made,  or  credible information has been received, or a reasonable suspicion exists that he  has committed a cognizable offence, to appear before him or at such other  place as may be specified in the notice.

(2) Where such a notice is issued to any person, it shall  be  the  duty  of that person to comply with the terms of the notice.

(3) Where such person complies and continues to comply with the  notice,  he shall not be arrested in respect of the offence referred to  in  the  notice unless, for reasons to be recorded, the police officer  is  of  the  opinion that he ought to be arrested.

(4) Where such person, at any time, fails to comply with the  terms  of  the notice or is unwilling to identify himself, the police officer may,  subject to such orders as may have been passed by a competent Court in this  behalf, arrest him for the offence mentioned in the notice.”

            Aforesaid provision makes it clear that in all cases  where  the arrest of a person is not required under Section 41(1),  Cr.PC,  the  police officer is required to issue notice directing the accused to  appear  before him at a specified place and time.  Law obliges such an  accused  to  appear before the police officer and it further mandates that if  such  an  accused complies with the terms of notice he  shall  not  be  arrested,  unless  for reasons to be recorded, the police office is of the opinion that the  arrest is necessary.  At this stage also, the condition  precedent  for  arrest  as envisaged under Section 41 Cr.PC has to be complied and shall be subject  to the same scrutiny by the Magistrate as aforesaid.

            We are of the opinion that if  the  provisions  of  Section  41, Cr.PC which authorises the police officer to arrest an  accused  without  an order from a Magistrate and without a  warrant  are  scrupulously  enforced, the wrong committed by the  police  officers  intentionally  or  unwittingly would be reversed and the number of cases which come to the Court for  grant of anticipatory bail will substantially reduce.  We would like to  emphasise that the practice of mechanically reproducing in the case diary all or  most of the reasons contained  in  Section  41  Cr.PC  for  effecting  arrest  be discouraged and discontinued.

        Our endeavour in this judgment is to ensure  that  police  officers  do  not arrest accused unnecessarily  and  Magistrate  do  not  authorise  detention casually and mechanically.  In order to ensure what we have observed  above, we give the following direction:

    All  the  State  Governments  to  instruct  its  police  officers   not   to automatically arrest  when  a  case  under  Section  498-A  of  the  IPC  is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity  for  arrest  under the parameters laid down above flowing from Section 41, Cr.PC;

    All police officers be provided with a check list containing specified  sub-clauses under Section 1(1)(b)(ii);

    The police officer shall forward the check list duly filed and  furnish  the reasons   and   materials   which    necessitated    the    arrest,    while forwarding/producing  the  accused  before  the   Magistrate   for   further detention;

    The Magistrate while authorising detention of the accused shall  peruse  the report furnished by the police officer in terms  aforesaid  and  only  after recording its satisfaction, the Magistrate will authorise detention;

    The decision not to arrest  an  accused,  be  forwarded  to  the  Magistrate within two weeks from the date of the institution of the case  with  a  copy to the Magistrate which may be extended by the Superintendent of  police  of the district for the reasons to be recorded in writing;  

Notice of appearance in terms of Section 41A  of  Cr.PC  be  served  on  the accused within two weeks from the date of institution  of  the  case,  which may be extended by the Superintendent of Police  of  the  District  for  the reasons to be recorded in writing;

Failure to comply with the directions aforesaid shall apart  from  rendering the police officers concerned liable for  departmental  action,  they  shall also be liable to be punished for contempt of court to be instituted  before High Court having territorial jurisdiction.

Authorising  detention  without  recording  reasons  as  aforesaid  by   the judicial Magistrate concerned shall be liable  for  departmental  action  by the appropriate High Court.

We hasten to add that the directions aforesaid shall not only apply  to  the cases under  Section  498-A  of  the  I.P.C.  or  Section  4  of  the  Dowry Prohibition Act, the case in hand, but also  such  cases  where  offence  is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may be less than  seven  years or which may extend to seven years; whether with or without fine.

      We direct that a copy of this  judgment  be  forwarded  to  the  Chief Secretaries as also the  Director  Generals  of  Police  of  all  the  State Governments and the Union Territories and the Registrar General of  all  the High Courts for onward transmission and ensuring its compliance.

      By  order  dated  31st  of  October,  2013,  this  Court  had  granted provisional bail to the appellant on certain conditions. We make this  order absolute.

In the result, we allow this appeal, making our aforesaid order  dated  31st October, 2013 absolute; with the directions aforesaid. 

                                                                (CHANDRAMAULI KR. PRASAD)…………………………………………J

                                                                 (PINAKI CHANDRA GHOSE) ………………………………………………J

 

NEW DELHI,

July 2, 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

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