K.B. Asthana, J.
1. This is an application by one Sheikh Mahmood Muzaffar praying that he be enlarged on bail pending his trial before the court of Session at Meerut on charges under sections 302/120B/109 of Indian Penal Code. According to the prosecution case the applicant entered into a conspiracy with certain other persons, who have also Been committed to stand their trial, to murder one Lala Jai Prakash and in pursuance of that conspiracy the said Lala Jai Prakash was shot at on 30th October 1961 at 6 or 6.30 p.m. in the village Rasulpur Dhaulari, police station Jani. A first information report of the incident was lodged by oneHari Krishen Das in which it was stated that one Mohammad Umar alias Bucha and two others shot at Lala Jai Prakash and they would be identified by the witnesses in the light of the lantern burning there. It appears that the said report was lodged at about 8.15 P.M. on the same date when Lala Jai Prakash was alive. It further appears that Lala Jai Prakash was removed to the hospital at Meerut where his dying declaration was recorded by a Tahsiidar Magistrateat about 10.30 P.M. Neither in the first information report nor in the dying declaration any allegation is made against the present applicant, Sheikh Mahamood Muzaffar.
According to the prosecution, the fact that it was the applicant at whose instance the murder had taken place wasdiscovered by them during the course of investigation lateron. The applicant was arrested on 29. 11. 1951. By an order dated 12.1.1962 a Magistrate of First Class ofMeerut has committed the applicant on charges under the abovesaid sections to stand his trial before the court ofSession. In the said order the learned Magistrate has referred to certain evidence from which he has inferred that a prima facie case of conspiracy to murder has been madeout against the applicant. He has referred to the following evidence: (After narrating the evidence the judgment proceeds:)
2. Before the learned Sessions Judge two applications were filed on behalf of the applicant for his release on bail. The first application was filed during the pendency of the enquiry proceedings before the learned Magistrate and the second application was filed after the applicanthad been committed for his trial before the Sessions Court. Both these applications were rejected by the learned Sessions Judge on the ground that the applicant was charged with a serious offence and the evidence against him wasprima facie of a nature on the basis of which it couldreasonably be believed that he was guilty of an offence punishable with life imprisonment or death.
3. In this application before me a detailed affidavithas been filed which has been sworn by Sheikh Masood Muzaffar, son of the applicant, giving all the relevant facts and the circumstances. On behalf of the prosecution two counter affidavits have been filed controverting some of the allegations made in the affidavit of Sheikh Masood Muzaffar and placing other circumstances of the case. Iheard arguments at some length in this case.
4. Sri H. C. Tripathi, the learned Additional Government Advocate, in his careful arguments has contended that in the case of a non-bailable offence of a serious nature an accused is not ordinarily entitled to be released on bail unless he makes out certain exceptional circumstances peculiar to himself or which may induce a reasonable belief in the mind of the court that he has not committed any offence punishable with life imprisonment ordeath. It has further contended that the powers of the High Court and the Sessions Judge in the matter of enlarging accused on bail under Section 498 of the Criminal Procedure Code are concurrent and once the learned Sessions Judge has refused to exercise a discretion in favour of the accused and rejected his prayer for bail, the High Courtshould not release the accused on bail unless the accused is able to show that the order of the learned sessions Judge was perverse or unjust.
5. On the other hand the learned counsel for the applicant. Sri P. C. Chaturvedi has with his usual ability and vehemence argued that the powers of the High courtunder Section 498 of the Criminal Procedure Code are not limited by the considerations of the provisions of Section 497 of the Criminal Procedure Code and the High Court has ample power and jurisdiction to release an accused on bail even if he is accused of serious non-bailable offences say that of murder. He has contended that the discretion vested in the High Court in the matter of releasing persons on bail no doubt is very wide but it has to be exercised on well established judicial principles and on a consideration of the circumstances of the case, the character of the evidence against the accused, of circumstances peculiar to the accused and so on.
6. The learned counsel for both the parties have relied upon certain observations made in the case of K.N. Joglekar v. Emperor : AIR1931All504 and the case of the State v. Captain Jagjit Singh : 3SCR622 . In the case of Joglekar : AIR1931All504 , a Special Bench of this Court has observed as follows:
'Section 498, Cr. P.C. gives an unfettered discretion to the High Court or the Court of Session to admit an accused person to bail. It is a mistake to imagine that Section 498 is controlled by the limitations of Section 497, except when there are not reasonable grounds for believing that the accused committed the offence, or there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is not guilty, in which cases it becomes a duty to release .... But Section 498 confers upon a Sessions Judge or the High Court wide powers to grant bail which are not handicapped by the restrictions in the preceding section. That discretion is unfettered but of course it cannot be exercised arbitrarily, but must be exercised judicially. There is no hard and fast rule and no inflexible principle governing such discretion. The only principle that is established is that there should be judicial exercise of that discretion. It is not any one single circumstance which necessarily concludes the discretion, but it is the cumulative effect of all the combined circumstances that must weigh with the Court. The considerations are too numerous to be classified or catalogued exhaustively.'
7. The learned Additional Government Advocate has drawn my attention to a passage in the reported judgment of the Joglekar case : AIR1931All504 wherein it has been observed as follows:
'Again, the fact that the Sessions Judge has refused to exercise his discretion in favour of the accused must also be given due weight. It would be hopeless to attempt to draw up an exhaustive list. It has been observed by Mukerji, J. that 'on general principles, and on principles on which Sections 496 and 497 (as amended in 1923) are framed the grant of bait should be the rule and the refusal of bail should be the exception.' With great respect, we do not think that any such rule exists as regards serious non-bailable offences which are punishable with death or transportation for life. On the other hand, in cases where there is a reasonable ground for believing that the accused has been guilty of an offence punishable with death or transportation for life, as regards which the legislature has thought fit to prohibit Magistrates from granting bail at all, the grant, of bail by a Sessions Judge or the High Court, who have undoubtedly power under Section 498, Criminal P. C., is to be made not as a general rule but only in exceptional cases. This is particularly so when the accused is on his trial, the prosecution evidence is closed and the Sessions Judge has refused to exercise his discretion in his favour. This is a rule of practice and caution only.'
8. It would be seen that from the above observations quoted by me the learned Judges constituting Special Bench in Joglekar's case : AIR1931All504 , have recognised the principle that the High Court has a wide discretion in the matter of granting of bail under Section 498 of the Criminal Procedure Code and the exercise of that unfettered discretion is not controlled by the limitations of Section 497. The learned Judges have emphasised that it is not any one single circumstance which necessarily concludes the discretion, but it is the cumulative effect of all the combined circumstances that must weigh with the Court and when referring to serious non-bailable offences the learned Judges have further emphasised that in cases where there is reasonable ground for believing that the accused had been guilty of an offence punishable with death or transportation for life, the grant of bail by Sessions Judge or the High Court should not be as a matter of general rule but in exceptional cases and particularly so when the Sessions Judge has refused to exercise his discretion in favour of the accused. But when observing so their Lordships have taken care to say that this is a rule of practice and caution only.
9. I do not wholly agree with the contention of the learned Additional Government Advocate that once the discretion has been exercised by the Sessions Judge against the accused then this Court in exercise of its unfettered discretion under Section 498 cannot review the circumstances of the case itself and come to its own independent conclusions but should examine the order of the teamed Sessions Judge and unless it finds fault with it or finds that it was perverse or unjust, the High Court cannot make an order releasing the accused on bail. As already said above, the decision in the case of Joglekar : AIR1931All504 (supra), and the rules of guidance laid by the Special Bench in that case do not, to my mind, support the extreme contention raised by the learned Additional Government Advocate. Nothing in the observations of the learned Judges in Joglekar's case : AIR1931All504 , has been shown to me by the learned Additional Government Advocate which will curtail the wide discretion of the High Court in the matter of the granting of bails in cases where the Sessions Judge has refused to exercise his discretion in favour of the accused.
The guiding principles laid down by the learned Judges in that case, some of which I have quoted above, will still continue to guide the High Court when an application comes before it under Section 498 of the Criminal Procedure Code even in cases of serious non-bailable offences where the Sessions Judge has refused to grant bail to the accused. In other words, where the application is made direct to the High Court without approaching the Sessions Court, or where after the Sessions Court has been approached and it has been rejected, there should be no difference in the approach to the case as far as the High Court is concerned. The only caution which has been placed by the learned Judges in Joglekar's case : AIR1931All504 , is that the refusal of the Sessions Judge to exercise his discretion in favour of the accused should only be one of the numerous circumstances to be taken into consideration by the High Court when exercising its unfettered discretion judicially under Section 498 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
10. Now, I may refer to certain observations made by Hon'ble Wanchoo, J. in the case of Captain Jagjit Singh : 3SCR622 , referred to above. Captain Jagjit Singh was being prosecuted for conspiracy under Sections 3 and 5 of the Official Secrets Act. An offence under Section 3 of the said Act is a non-bailable offence, while an offence under Section 5 of the said Act is a bailable offence, me Calcutta High Court had in exercise of its powers underSection 498 ordered Captain Jagjit Singh to be released on bail presumably holding that the charge made fell under Section 5 of that Act which was bailable. No definite finding was given whether on the facts of the case and the circumstances therein any offence was made out under Section 3 of the said Act.
It was pointed out by Hon'ble Wanchoo, J. delivering the judgment of the Court that if the High Court thought it would not be proper at that stage where commitment proceedings were to take place to express an opinion on the question whether the offence in a case fell under Section 5 which is bailable or under Section 3 which is non-bailable, it should have proceeded to deal with the application on the assumption that the offence was under Section 3 and therefore non-bailable. Then the learned Judge has further observed that:
'It (High Court) should then have taken into account the various considerations, such as, nature and seriousness of the offence, the character of the evidence, circumstances which are peculiar to the accused, a reasonable possibility of the presence of the accused not being secured at the trial, reasonable apprehension of witnesses being tampered with, the larger interests of the public or the State, and similar other considerations which arise when a Court is asked for bail in a non-bailable offence. It is true that under Section 498 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the powers of the High Court in the matter of granting bail are very wide; even so where the offence is non-bailable various considerations such as those indicated above had to be taken into account before bail is granted in non-baliable offences.'
11. The learned Judge has further discussed in the subsequent part of the judgment the facts and circumstances of the case before the Supreme Court and finally came to the conclusion that that was not a fit case where discretion which undoubtedly vests in the Court under Section 498 of the Code of Criminal Procedure should have been exercised in favour of the respondent. The learned Additional Government Advocate has tried to argue on the basis of the latter observations made by Hon'ble Wanchoo, J. that inasmuch as Captain Jagjit Singh if convicted would have been liable for an imprisonment upto fourteen years and in those circumstances and considering the nature of the offence, their Lordships of the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that it was not a case where discretion should have been exercised under Section 498 of the Code at Criminal Procedure that the law laid down by the Supreme Court is that seriousness of the offence itself should be a ground for refusing to exercise a discretion by the High Court under Section 498, Cr. P. C.
The learned Government Advocate further amplifies his argument in this respect and contends that serious non-bailable offences for the purpose of exercise of powers under Section 498, Cr. P. C. are a class by themselves and any person charged of such an offence has no right to be released on bail. This to my mind is a fallacious approach and proceeds on an incorrect appreciation of the observations made by Honble Wanchoo, J. in the case of Captain Jagjit Singh : 3SCR622 . As I read those observations where the learned Judge says that the High Court ought not to have exercised a discretion in favour of Captain Jagjit Singh, he is dealing with the peculiar circumstances of that case and pointing out that In those circumstances no case was made out for the exercise of the discretion vested in the High Court under Section 498 of We Criminal Procedure Code. To my mind guiding rule has been laid down by Wanchoo, J. in the earlier part of hisjudgment wherein in lucid language the learned Judge has laid down as to what should be considered amongst other factors in exercising the wide discretion which is vested in the High Court or the Sessions Court under Section 498 of the Criminal Procedure Code. I do not find anything in the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Captain Jagjit Singh : 3SCR622 , which in any way departs from the rules of guidance and the principles laid down by the Special Bench of this Court in Joglekar's case : AIR1931All504 .
In my opinion the unfettered discretion which is vested in the High Court under Section 498, Cr. P. Code in the matter of grant of bail is not in any manner, as a matter of law, affected or narrowed down merely because the Sessions Judge has refused to exercise a discretion in favour of the accused. The only effect of the refusal by the Sessions Judge to exercise a discretion in favour of the accused is that that becomes one of the circumstances to be taken into consideration in the exercise of discretion by the High Court. The rejection of prayer for bail by the Sessions Judge does not affect the scope or the extent of the power of the High Court in the exercise of its discretion under Section 498 of the Criminal procedure Code.
12. The question, therefore, which now arises for consideration is whether in the present case considering the character of the evidence, circumstances peculiar to the accused, reasonable possibility of the accused being not present at the trial, the reasonable apprehension of the Witnesses being tampered, the larger interest of the public or the State and the cumulative effect of all the combined circumstances brought out on the affidavits on record, I would be justified in exercising my unfettered discretion under Section 498 of the Criminal Procedure Code, in favour of the applicant taking due note of the fact that the learned Judge has twice refused to exercise his discretion in favour of the accused.
13. In the earlier part of my order I have already referred to the material which is so far on the record against the applicant on the basis of which the prosecution is seeking to charge him with an offence of conspiracy to murder. The applicant is not charged directly for the commission of the offence of murder but he is alleged to be a conspirator and is being drawn in in connection with this offence by attributing on him a sort of vicarious liability either by abetment or by conspiracy. The learned Sessions Judge has in his orders which I have perused with some care, referred to the prosecution evidence In respect of the charge of conspiracy and after observing that he could not at that stage express any opinion on the merits of that evidence and that evidence disclosed a prima facie case of conspiracy against the accused he rejected the prayer for bail. Even if it cannot be said that the learned Sessions Judge has not properly exercised his discretion or has fallen into any serious error, I think it to be the duty of the High Court to review the whole matter and come to its own independent conclusion while exercising its discretion under Section 498 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
In the affidavit filed in support of the application for bail each and every piece of evidence so far on record against the applicant has been explained in some details. The counter-affidavits which have been filed on behalf of the prosecution prima facie do not impress me that what has been alleged on behalf of the applicant with regard to the nature and character of the prosecution evidence is without any justification or foundation. (After discussing theevidence adduced by the prosecution, the judgment proceeds :)
The learned counsel for the applicant has pointed our the inherent improbabilities in the evidence of those prosecution witnesses who are alleged to have overheard the talk taking place at the house of the applicant with other co-accused for doing away with Lala Jai Prakash. He has characterised that those witnesses are chance witnesses and it was most improbable that those two witnesses at the right psychological moment would reach the house of the applicant and overhear the talks going on there. It is stated that these two witnesses were never regular visitors to the house of the applicant and they visited that house for the first time on that alleged occasion. I refrain from expressing any opinion on the validity of the argument of the learned counsel in this respect. Similar criticism has been made by the learned counsel on the other part of the evidence relating to conspiracy, namely, that of the alleged procurement of arms and the buying of a ticket for Mohammad Umar to send him away outside Meerut.
In the affidavit in support of this application categorical statement has been made based on documentary evidence that some of these witnesses are either inimical to the accused or are under the influence of the police. Again I refrain from expressing any opinion on the merits of the defence case. Some emphasis has been laid by the learned counsel for the applicant on the circumstance that all the evidence relating to the alleged conspiracy has been revealed after a great delay and particularly he has drawn my attention to the fact that the co-accused is alleged to have confessed to the conspiracy long time before the occurrence but this fact itself was discovered by the prosecution almost equally a long time after the date of occurrence.
The learned counsel has made some argument trial the alleged confession of the co-accused besides being of doubtful admissibility does not in any way implicate the applicant. It is said that in the so-called confession which is oral and which has not been made before any Magistrate what has been stated is that Sheikh of Dhaulari is conspiring and the learned counsel submits that there are many Sheikhs in Dhaulari. I do not think it is necessary for me to discuss the evidence beyond this brief mention or the features of the prosecution evidence and the circumstances which have been brought on record through the affidavit which point out to the vagueness of such evidence in deciding this application.
14. It has also been averred in the affidavit filed in support of the application and which has not been controverted that the applicant is an old infirm man of about sixty-two years of age, that he is a well-to-do man and a respectable citizen, that he had been Pradhan of his village, that he has a large family and is a man of property, if has been stated by Sri P.C. Chaturvedi, learned counsel for the applicant, that his client undertakes that if he Is released on bail he would not move out beyond the limits of Meerut Municipality and Meerut Cantonment. There is no allegation in any affidavit against the applicant that he would tamper with the prosecution evidence but I think it would be a sufficient safe-guard If a condition is put that he would not move out beyond the limits of Meerut Municipality and the Cantonment.
15. In the result, the cumulative effect of all the combined circumstances stated above leads me to the conclusion that I would be justified in exercising my discretion under Section 498 of the Criminal Procedure Code in favour of the applicant and I think in the circumstances of the case the applicant is entitled from me for an order enlarging him on bail.
16. The order enlarging him on bail has been passed separately by me and the above are the reasons for the same.
17. The order separately issued enlarging the applicant on bail is as follows:
'After having heard the learned counsel for the applicant and the learned Government Advocate and for the reasons given separately I order that the applicant shall be released on bail to the satisfaction of the District Magistrate of Meerut subject to the conditions that during the time he is on bail he will not move out of the limits of Meerut Municipality and of Meerut Cantonment
A copy of this order will be supplied to the learnedcounsel for the applicant on payment of usual charges.'