The Supreme Court on Tuesday cautioned the high courts from passing blanket orders protecting accused persons from arrest during pendency of investigation and said that in case it ordered that “no coercive steps (are) to be adopted…the High Court must clarify what does it mean by” that, lest it is “too vague and/or broad which can be misunderstood and/or misapplied”.
“The High Court shall not, and as such is not justified in passing the order of not to arrest and/or ‘no coercive steps’ either during investigation or till investigation is completed, and/or till the final report/chargesheet is filed under Section 173 Cr.P.C., while dismissing/disposing of the quashing petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or under Article 226 of the Constitution,” a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, M R Shah and Sanjiv Khanna ruled.
The bench said that “…though, while passing interim orders, it is not necessary to elaborately deal with the merits, it is certainly desirable and proper for the High Court to indicate the reasons which have weighed with it in granting such an extraordinary relief in the form of interim protection”.
Writing for the bench, Justice Shah stated, “…passing such type of blanket interim orders without assigning reasons, of not to arrest and/or “no coercive steps” would hamper the investigation and may affect the statutory right/duty of police to investigate the cognizable offence…. Therefore, such a blanket order is not justified. The order of the High Court must disclose reasons why it has passed an ad-interim direction during pendency of proceedings under Section 482 Cr.P.C. Such reasons, however brief, must disclose an application of mind.”
“We caution the High Courts again against passing such orders…”, the bench said while quashing a September 2020 interim order of Bombay High Court, which directed that “no coercive measures shall be adopted” against the accused in respect of an FIR lodged in 2019 on allegations of cheating, forgery and others.
The ruling reiterated that the FIR is not an “encyclopedia” which must disclose all facts and details relating to the offence reported, and courts should not go into the merits of the allegations when investigation by the police is in progress.
“Therefore, when investigation by the police is in progress, the court should not go into the merits of allegations in the FIR. Police must be permitted to complete the investigation. It would be premature to pronounce the conclusion based on hazy facts that the complaint/FIR does not deserve to be investigated or that it amounts to abuse of process of law,” the bench ruled.
“After investigation, if the investigating officer finds that there is no substance in the application made by the complainant, the investigating officer may file an appropriate report/summary before the learned Magistrate which may be considered by the learned Magistrate in accordance with the known procedure”, the bench said.