The Hon’ble Supreme Court has reiterated the principle of bail as a general rule and keeping the person in jail is an exception, however, the Court has observed that bail should not be granted in every case and that the grant or refusal of bail is entirely within the discretion of the Judge hearing the matter and that discretion should be exercised judiciously as upheld by the High Court of Meghalaya through the learned bench led by Hon’ble Mr. Justice W. Diengdoh in the case of Pankaj Kumar Bhardwaj Vs. State of Meghalaya (BA No.13/2021).
The brief facts of the case are that it is an application under Section 439 Cr.P.C with a prayer for release of the petitioner herein on bail on any conditions as may deem fit and proper by this Court. According to the Petitioner, he was arrested in connection with the above mentioned case on the basis of an FIR dated 04.03.2021 lodged by one Shri. Bikash Goshwami who, on finding that his daughter aged about 14 years of age was found missing, had lodged the said FIR and the petitioner herein was named as the main suspect. Accordingly, the petitioner was arrested.
Mr. S. C. Chakraborty, learned counsel for the petitioner, has further submitted that the case has travelled beyond the stage of investigation and the I.O. has eventually filed the charge sheet in the ‘Final Form’ as required u/s 173 Cr.P.C. The thrust of the submission of the learned Sr. counsel is on the fact that the matter has been charge sheeted and according to his knowledge, charges have also been framed against the accused and therefore, at this stage, there is no question of tampering with the evidence or witnesses and under the circumstances, taking into account the fact that the petitioner is a young man of 23 years, therefore, prayer for grant of bail is made before this Court with any condition to be imposed for which the petitioner will abide with the same.
Mr. B. Bhattacharjee, learned AAG along with Mr. A. H. Kharwanlang, learned GA submitted that the reports reveals that the offences alleged against the petitioner herein are very serious in nature and the same involves a minor girl of about 14 years old. Perusal of the statement made by the alleged victim under Section 164 Cr.P.C, would also show that the accused has used force and deceit to compel the victim girl to run away with him on the said day. Another submission of the learned AAG was that the list of witnesses cited by the prosecution includes a number of persons who are known to the petitioner and as such, if enlarged on bail at this stage, the possibility of influencing the said witness cannot be ruled out, bail at this stage may not be granted.
After the perusal of the facts and arguments by the learned counsels, the Hon’ble Court held, “The Court is of the considered opinion that prima facie a case under the relevant sections and Law cited in the charge sheet have been made out against the petitioner herein. Be that as it may be, as submitted at the bar the charges have been framed against the accused, for which he is at liberty to argue before charge and to present his case accordingly. As far as the issue of discretion is concerned, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Dataram Singh Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh and Anr. (2018) 3 SCC 22 has reiterated the principle of bail as a general rule and keeping the person in jail is an exception. However, at paragraph 6 of the same, the Court has observed that bail should not be granted in every case and that the grant or refusal of bail is entirely within the discretion of the Judge hearing the matter and that discretion should be exercised judiciously. On the touch stone of the above cited principles, this Court is of the considered opinion that the case of the petitioner for grant of bail cannot be considered at this juncture.”
Judgment reviewed by Vandana Ragwani