Woman Can Be Granted Bail For Non-Bailable Offence Even If Its Is Punishable With Life Sentence/ Death: In Karnataka High Court

The Karnataka High Court recently granted bail to a woman accused of murdering her husband, stating that it is not the law that bail should always be denied in cases where the offence is punishable by death or life imprisonment. 

In the case of Nethra vs State of Karnataka (Criminal petition No. 2306 of 2022), a single judge bench led by Honourable Justice M Nagaprasanna allowed a petition filed by one Netra and granted her bail under section 437 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). 

In terms of Section 437 of the CrPC, bail can be granted in a non-bailable offence on three circumstances as depicted in the proviso,  

  1. a person below 16 years of age,  
  1. a woman and  
  1. a person who is sick or infirm. 

Facts of the case: 

The Petitioner is accused of killing her husband in this case. According to a complaint filed by the deceased’s father, when he arrived at his son’s house at midnight, he discovered his son lying dead, while the Petitioner, who was holding a weapon in her hand, fled when she saw him. 

The petitioner was taken into judicial custody on November 8, 2021, and has been there since. After being arrested, the petitioner applied for bail under Section 439 of the Cr.P.C. while the investigation was still ongoing. The application for bail was denied. On January 25, 2022, the police filed their final report/charge sheet following their investigation. Despite the fact that a charge sheet had been filed in the case, the application for bail was dismissed on 17.02.2022 on the grounds that the offence committed was punishable by death or life imprisonment. 

The Petitioner’s Senior Advocate Hashmath Pasha argued that, despite the charge being punishable under Section 302 of the IPC, the accused being a woman is statutorily entitled to be considered for release on bail, even if the charge sheet has already been filed. 

He mentioned that one of the co-accused in the case had already been released on bail. 

On the other hand, the prosecution argued that the alleged crime is punishable by death or life imprisonment. As a result, despite being a woman and entitled to consideration under Section 437 of the CrPC, the petitioner should not be released in the case because she would pose a threat to society. 

Court Findings: 

The court, citing section 437 of the CrPC, stated, “A woman is the petitioner. Section 437 of the Cr.P.C. gives her the right to be heard.” 

It then cited three High Court decisions dealing with the same issue: Kavitha v. State of Karnataka, (Crl.P.No.2509 of 2019), Ratnawwa v. State of Karnataka, (Crl.P.No.100503 of 2014), and Thippamma v. State of Karnataka, (Crl.P.No.8575 of 2017), all of which were decided on March 1, 2018. 

“The statute, Section 437 of the Cr.P.C., and its application in the judgments of three coordinate Benches all would ensure to the petitioner’s benefit to be enlarged on bail notwithstanding the fact that the offence alleged is under Section 302 of the IPC,” the court wrote. 

“In exceptional cases, if the statute permits and the facts are not so gruesome and grave criminal antecedents shroud the perpetrator, the consideration in such cases would be different,” it continued. 

“In my considered opinion, the facts in the case at hand are not those that would not entitle consideration of the case under Section 437 of the Cr.P.C., particularly when looking at the petitioner’s conduct for having surrendered before the police on commission of the alleged murder,” it concluded.  The petitioner has no criminal history other than the current sword on his head, and would not pose a threat to society if released, especially since the police have completed their investigation and filed the charge sheet in the case at hand.” 

As a result, the accused was granted bail after posting a personal bond of Rs 2 lakh with one surety in the same amount. It also imposed some restrictions. 

Judgement Reviewed By Manju Molakalapalli. 

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