Thursday, 9 April 2020

Supreme Court: In Criminal complaint case court should not issue non bailable warrant in first instance

Before parting with this appeal, we would like to discuss an issue which is of great public importance, i.e., how and when warrants should be issued by the Court? It has come to our notice that in many cases that bailable and non-bailable warrants are issued casually and mechanically. 

47. In State of U.P. v. Poosu and Anr. MANU/SC/0191/1976 : 1976CriLJ1373 at para 13 page 5, the Court observed:

Whether in the circumstances of the case, the attendance of the accused respondent can be best secured by issuing a bailable warrant or non-bailable warrant, is a matter which rests entirely in the discretion of the court. Although, the discretion is exercised judiciously, it is not possible to computerize and reduce into immutable formulae the diverse considerations on the basis of which this discretion is exercised. Broadly speaking, the court would take into account the various factors such as the nature and seriousness of the offence, the character of the evidence, circumstances peculiar to the accused, possibility of his absconding, larger interest of the public and the State.

48. The issuance of non-bailable warrants involves interference with personal liberty. Arrest and imprisonment means deprivation of the most precious right of an individual. Therefore, the courts have to be extremely careful before issuing non-bailable warrants.

49. Just as liberty is precious for an individual so is the interest of the society in maintaining law and order. Both are extremely important for the survival of a civilized society. Sometimes in the larger interest of the Public and the State it becomes absolutely imperative to curtail freedom of an individual for a certain period, only then the non-bailable warrants should be issued.

When non-bailable warrants should be issued

Non-bailable warrant should be issued to bring a person to court when summons of bailable warrants would be unlikely to have the desired result. This could be when:

• it is reasonable to believe that the person will not voluntarily appear in court; or

• the police authorities are unable to find the person to serve him with a summon; or

• it is considered that the person could harm someone if not placed into custody immediately.

50. As far as possible, if the court is of the opinion that a summon will suffice in getting the appearance of the accused in the court, the summon or the bailable warrants should be preferred. The warrants either bailable or non-bailable should never be issued without proper scrutiny of facts and complete application of mind, due to the extremely serious consequences and ramifications which ensue on issuance of warrants. The court must very carefully examine whether the Criminal Complaint or FIR has not been filed with an oblique motive.

51. In complaint cases, at the first instance, the court should direct serving of the summons along with the copy of the complaint. If the accused seem to be avoiding the summons, the court, in the second instance should issue bailable warrant. In the third instance, when the court is fully satisfied that the accused is avoiding the court's proceeding intentionally, the process of issuance of the non-bailable warrant should be resorted to. Personal liberty is paramount, therefore, we caution courts at the first and second instance to refrain from issuing non-bailable warrants.

52. The power being discretionary must be exercised judiciously with extreme care and caution. The court should properly balance both personal liberty and societal interest before issuing warrants. There cannot be any straight-jacket formula for issuance of warrants but as a general rule, unless an accused is charged with the commission of an offence of a heinous crime and it is feared that he is likely to tamper or destroy the evidence or is likely to evade the process of law, issuance of non-bailable warrants should be avoided.

53. The Court should try to maintain proper balance between individual liberty and the interest of the public and the State while issuing non-bailable warrant.


Criminal Appeal No. 1392 of 2007
Decided On: 09.10.2007

 Inder Mohan Goswami  Vs.  State of Uttaranchal and Ors.

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
K.G. Balakrishnan, C.J., R.V. Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari, JJ.
Read full judgment here: Click here

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