The Supreme Court has stated that simply because an arrest is legal does not mean that it must be made while noting that personal liberty is an important component of constitutional obligation. The Court stated that if arrests become frequent, they might inflict “incalculable injury” to a person’s reputation and self-esteem.
A panel of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy ruled that if the investigating officer in a case does not believe the accused would flee or violate the summons, he or she is not needed to appear in court in custody.
“Personal liberty is a crucial component of our constitutional mission, as we can see. When a custodial inquiry is required, or it is a serious crime, or there is a potential of influencing witnesses or the accused absconding, the cause to arrest an accused while investigation emerges “The bench said this in a judgment issued earlier this week.
The ruling was issued by the Supreme Court while hearing a petition challenging an Allahabad High Court decision that denied an application for anticipatory relief in a case in which an FIR was filed seven years ago. The bench noted that, contrary to the observations made in the 1994 apex court verdict on how a police officer must deal with an arrest scenario, trial courts are said to be insisting on arrest as a pre-requisite formality to take charge sheet on record in light of provisions of Section 170 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
Section 170 of the CrPC deals with matters that should be referred to a magistrate if the evidence is adequate. According to the Supreme Court, the phrase “custody” in section 170 of the CrPC does not refer to either police or judicial custody, but rather to the appearance of the accused before the court by the investigating officer while filing a charge sheet.
It was noted that section 170 of the CrPC does not require the officer-in-charge to arrest the accused at the moment the charge sheet is filed.
“Merely because an arrest is permitted does not imply that it must be made,” the bench ruled, adding that “if an arrest is made regular, it can do immeasurable harm to a person’s reputation and self-esteem.”While overturning the high court judgment, the bench noted that the petitioner had already joined the investigation prior to approaching the supreme court and that a charge sheet was ready to be submitted.
“If the investigating officer has no cause to suspect that the accused would flee or defy summons and has, in fact, cooperated with the inquiry throughout,” it stated, “we struggle to understand why the officer should be compelled to arrest the accused.”
It alluded to high court rulings on the subject, which said that criminal courts cannot refuse to accept a charge sheet just because the accused has not been apprehended and brought before them.
“We agree with the aforementioned view of the high courts and would like to give our imprimatur to the said judicial view,” it said, adding, “We have, in fact, come across cases where the accused has cooperated with the investigation throughout and yet, on the charge sheet being filed, non-bailable warrants have been issued for his production premised on the requirement that there is an obligor.”
It was emphasized that there must be a distinction established between the presence of the authority to arrest and the rationale for using it. Referring to the issue at hand, the court stated that because the petitioner has joined the inquiry, which is complete, and he has been pulled in after seven years of filing an FIR, there is no reason why he should be arrested before the charge sheet is placed on record.