Rakesh Kumar Paul v. State of Assam: Case Study

LJCS: Legal Journal for Contemporary Society

Introduction

Rakesh Kumar Paul v. State of Assam was decided in the year 2019 in the Supreme Court on a three judge's bench. This case is basically based on the topic of default bail, which is present in Section 167 of CrPC.

Bail is a right of the accused, and the person's liberty is very important until he is proven guilty. Now talking about the topic, as defined in Section 167(2) of the CrPC, trial judges will have to grant bail if the police fail to complete the investigation within a period of 60 days or 90 days, as may be the case (it basically depends upon whether the punishment of the crime committed by the accused is more or less than 10 years). This case deals with the confusion between whether to grant bail in 60 or 90 days.

While doing this case comment, this blog will try to cover the broad topic of default bail.


Statutory Interpretation

This case basically moves around Section 167(2)[1] of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (hereinafter referred to as ‘CrPC’). Section 167(2) proviso (a) clause (ii)[2] provides that before the expiry of 60 days, police have to complete the investigation and has to file a charge sheet. Section 167(2) proviso (a) clause (i)[3] provides that the police will have to complete the investigation and file a charge sheet within the expiry of 90 days if the punishment for the crime committed by the accused is death, life imprisonment or an “imprisonment for a term not less than 10 years” Also, this case involves Section 7[4], 13(1)(b)(2)[5] and 13(2)[6] of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.


Facts

Rakesh Kumar Paul, the accused, was the Assam Public Service Commission (hereinafter referred to as ‘APSC’). Dr Angshumita Gogoi lodged a complaint against Rakesh Kumar Paul, which alleged him for committing offences under section 7[7] and section 13(1)(b)(2)[8] of the Prevention of the Corruption Act, 1988 (hereinafter referred to as ‘PCA’). In her complain, Dr Angshumita Gogoi stated that she was contacted by Mr Nabakanta Patir asked her to pay Rs. 10 lakhs if she wanted to be recruited as the dental surgeon in the APSC. The police, after receiving the complaint from her, laid a trap for Mr Nabakanta Patir. The police were successful in apprehending Mr Patir at his residence with the alleged amount. After the arrest of Mr Patir, the police on investigation discovered a whole corrupt network that used to provide the government job to various people through a bribe. After the investigation, it was found that the appellant, Rakesh Kumar Paul, Chairman of APSC, was the one who used to supervise the entire corrupt network. He was arrested and was produced before a Special court, Guwahati, which decided to remand him in custody.

The appellant presented an application of ‘regular bail’ on 20th December 2016 before the Special Judge, which was dismissed. He again filed an application of bail before the Guwahati high court on 11th January 2017 which was dismissed again. The first application for the regular bail was filed before the expiry of 60 days, and the later of the application was filed before the expiry of 90 days.


Prayers & Pleadings

A. Arguments by Appellant

The arguments advanced by the learned counsel of the appellant were based on that he should have been granted bail as per Section 167(2)[9] of CrPC, as the charge sheet, which was to be filed within 60 days, was not filed within the time limit. He relied on Section 13(2) of PCA, 1988,[10] The maximum punishment granted to the accused was not more than seven years; hence the charge sheet was to be filed within 60 days, which was not done by the police. The 60 days time period, in this case, expired on 4th January 2017. An argument was raised during the case which was Section 13(2) of the PCA was amended by the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013,[11] which increased the punishment from 7 years to 10 years. In this situation, the appellant counsel relied upon the judgment of Rajeev Chaudhary v State of Delhi[12] (which will be discussed later under the cases relied upon heading). They anyhow managed to be on their words, i.e. the time period for filing the charge sheet was 60 days.

B. Arguments by the State

The arguments advanced by the State were mainly relied on the case Bhupinder Singh v. Jarnail Singh[13] (which will also be discussed under the cases relied upon heading). And by using this case, the State raised the contrary contentions stating that a period of 90 days is available to the police for the investigation and filing the charge sheet. They relied on the judgment of the previously stated case that in short, was- ‘if the punishment of the crime as prescribed by the offence is beyond 10 years (including the 10th year), then the case will fall under the purview of Section 167(2) proviso (a) clause (i)[14]’.[15]


Appreciation of Evidence

The evidence which was acknowledged by the court in this case were:

1. Appellant presented an application of ‘regular bail’ on 20th December 2016 before the Special Judge.

2. Appellant again filed an application of bail before the Guwahati high court on 11th January 2017.

3. Section 13(2) of the PCA was amended by the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013,[16] which increased the punishment from 7 years to 10 years.

4. Taking two cases in cognizance, i.e. Rajeev Chaudhary v. State of Delhi and Bhupinder Singh v. Jarnail Singh.

These were some of the facts that the court looked into to deliver the judgment. This case is based on a question which the court has to answer while interpreting the statute. There were not many facts that can be taken as evidence.


Application of the Law

The court accepted the view of the case, Rajeev Chaudhary, over the case Bhupinder Singh. While giving the reasoning, the court stated that there is a dire need to take the gravity of the offence seriously. They also stated that the graver the offence is, the deeper should be its investigation. The court explained the reason behind the legislature’s decision to enact the law of ‘default bail’ into two compartments. They said that the legislature kept offences whose punishment is the death penalty, imprisonment for not less than 10 years and imprisonment for life in a single compartment. And the other offences, whose minimum punishment might be less than 10 years but the maximum punishment is more than 10 years, were kept in the other compartment. The reason for the same was to cancel out all the ambiguities while interpreting the Section. They knew that in future, there might arise many ambiguities and uncertainty because of this provision. As per the court, the first compartment requires a deep investigation, as the offence is of such a grave nature. The minimum punishments for the offences in the first compartment are rigid and hence needed more time to investigate. The second compartment may also require a deeper investigation because of its maximum punishment. Still, they were kept in the second compartment because of only one reason, i.e. the minimum punishment in those offences is less than 10 years, or we can simply say that they have lower minimum punishment.

The court also looked at the issue of the case from the perspective of personal liberty.[17] According to the court, since 1898, the legislature's intention was that the investigation for the crime should be completed within a period of 24 hrs. While having this intent, the legislature also knew that there are many cases in which it is not possible to complete the investigation within a very short time, i.e. 24 hrs. Hence, they also prescribed a maximum of 15 days as an addition to complete the investigation.[18] However, it was later decided that 15 days is also not enough to complete the investigation of many cases. Hence, the law commission, in its 41st report prescribed an increase in the investigation limit to 60 days, which was later enacted within CRPC, 1973.[19] This time period of 60 days was also not found to be enough, and hence a period of 90 days came into existence where 60 days and 90 days were kept in two different compartments. Despite the amendments made possible by the legislature to conclude the investigations from time to time, it has also emphasized the need to finish it within 24 hours.

This, which is discussed above, clearly states that the legislature, while providing sufficient time for the investigation, has also acknowledged the perspective of personal liberty of the accused and arrested person. They thought that it would be unfair to them if they remain in custody for a prolonged time. This idea upholding the court's findings highlighted the need to diverge these compartments on the minimum penalty grounds that can be given on an offence. It was also said that the courts should not look into too many technicalities while furnishing the bail (i.e. whether it should be regular bail or the default bail). If the custody’s time period has elapsed, then the bail should be granted with ease if the accused is ready to furnish it. The court basically made this statement to satisfy the perspective of personal liberty.

Hence, summing up the whole section, we can say that the court, while applying the law, basically looked into the purpose of the law, how it came into existence, and how the legislature thought it should be in contemporary time.


Inferences

The court used the legislature’s intent in 1898 when the Law of Criminal procedure came into existence. Also, the court used the Law commission’s 41st report while applying the law to look into the amendment done to the default bail section (when the maximum time period for the investigation got changed). These were only two main historical facts that were used while delivering judgment.


Cases relied upon

There were mainly two cases that were relied upon by the appellant and the stateside. Talking about the first one, i.e. Rajeev Chaudhary v State of Delhi[20], it was relied upon by the appellant side so that the accused could have got the bail after the completion of 60 days. This particular case deals with the offence under Section 386 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (from here IPC) i.e. Extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt.[21] This section provides the punishment “which may extend up to 10 years”. The court, in this case, interpreted the words “not less than” under section 167(2) of the CRPC as the punishment which an offence provides should be “10 years or more” so that to invoke Section 167(2) proviso (a) clause (i). Hence, to sum up, the judgment, the court, in this case, said that the period of the punishment should be clear for 10 or more years. Now, the second case was Bhupinder Singh v. Jarnail Singh[22] which was relied on by the government side to argue that the accused should only be granted default bail when the period of 90 days collapses. This case was basically concerned with section 304-B of the IPC.[23] This section deals with the topic of ‘Dowry Death’. The punishment under this section ranges from 7 years to life imprisonment. The court in the case opined that the situation in which both the minimum and maximum punishments are prescribed in the statute, than in those cases both the punishment can be imposed, as depending upon the facts of the case or depending upon the circumstances.[24] The court continued by stating that if the punishment or the sentence, as prescribed under the offence, goes beyond or even includes 10 years, then the case will be under the ambit of Section 167(2) proviso (a) clause (i). This means that the police can be given a maximum time of 90 days instead of 60 days to complete their investigation and file a charge sheet.

These were the only two cases that were used by the two parties in the court.


Comparative

Before, In this case, there were only two cases that played a major role in interpreting section 167(2), or we can say the topic of ‘default bail’. These cases have been already discussed by me under the previous heading, i.e. Cases relied upon. The difference between the two cases, in short, is:

i. In Rajeev Chaudhary v. State of Delhi court held that the period of the punishment should be clear for 10 or more years to come under the purview of Section 167(2)(a)(i).

ii. In Bhupinder Singh v. Jarnail Singh court held that if the punishment or the sentence, as prescribed under the offence, goes beyond or even includes 10 years, then the case will come under the ambit of Section 167(2) proviso (a) clause (i).

Before In these cases, there was no major disagreement on the topic of default bail and hence we can say that these three cases (including this case) are the major authorities in the topic of default bail.


Ratio

This case was decided by a ratio of 2:1 in which the majority view was in favour of the accused. They took the view of Rajeev Chaudhary v. State of Delhi over Bhupinder Singh v. Jarnail Singh. The judges who were in favour of the accused were Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Madan B Lokur. The dissenting opinion was given by Justice Prafulla C Pant.[25] All the judges gave their own reasoning. They all were on the same page when the topic of bail was being discussed. All of them accepted that the accused should be released within 60 days or 90 days if the accused is ready to furnish the bail. They disagreed on the bail's time period, i.e. the time period within which the accused should be granted bail. Still, they agreed on the context that bail is an indefeasible right that has to be given to the accused if he is ready to furnish one, and he has to be given one when the stipulated time (as the case may be) has been expired.[26] Justice Madan B Lokur said that the accused has satisfied all the eligibility requirements for furnishing a default bail after the expiry of 60 days. Justice Deepak Gupta also supported the observations that were made by Justice Lokur. But Justice Prafulla C Pant disagreed and opined that the accused will only be furnished a ‘default bail’ when a period of 90 days is over, and hence, in this case, he should not be granted bail.[27] The disagreement was majorly seen between the judges when they interpreted the term “not less than 10 years” to determine when the accused can file a default bail, i.e. after what period of time.

1. Starting with Justice Madan B Lokur, he interpreted that the term which is present in Section 167(2) proviso (a) clause (i) should be only be interpreted in its natural meaning and be termed in its obvious sense. As to add, they will identify their connection to a crime with a minimum sentence of 10 years in the light of section 167 of the code.

2. Justice Deepak Gupta opined that the cases in which the minimum punishment is less than 10 years and the maximum punishment are neither the death penalty, not life imprisonment should come within the ambit of Section 167(2)(a)(ii).

3. Justice Prafulla C Pant opined that it should be looked through the legislation's intent, i.e. what was the legislature’s intentions while making the two compartments. He stated that the legislature wanted that the offences which have a maximum punishment of or more than 10 years than it should come under the ambit of Section 167(2)(a)(i). If it is not followed, then it can be said that constitutional fraud has been committed.

Hence, summing up the conclusion, both Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta favoured granting the bail to the accused as the time period of 60 days were expired. But on the contrary, Justice Prafulla C Pant was again of both the judges' opinions and said that the default bail should only be furnished to the victim after the expiry of 90 days.

Hence, this case goes in favour of the accused.


Conclusion

For the issue which was discussed in this case, I believe that we should interpret the term “not less than” present in Section 167(2) to the cap of 10 years. We should only interpret it as following the intention of the legislators. The period of 90 days should only be given in cases where 10 years is the minimum punishment prescribed as the gravity of those offences will be much larger than those in which the punishment prescribed is less than 10 years. Also, the bail should be given immediately after the expiry of either 60 or 90 days (as the case depends) and must be understood as an indefeasible right.

-By Ayush Agarwal
2nd Year, NUJS


References:

[1] The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, § 167(2). Section 167(2) lays down:

The Magistrate to whom an accused person is forwarded under this section may, whether he has or has no jurisdiction to try the case, from time to time, authorize the detention of the accused person in such custody as such Magistrate thinks fit, for a term not exceeding fifteen days in the whole, and if he has no jurisdiction to try the case or commit it for trial, and considers further detention unnecessary, he may order the accused to be forwarded to a Magistrate having such jurisdiction.

Provided that:

(a) the Magistrate may authorize the detention of the accused person, otherwise than in the custody of the police, beyond the period of fifteen days, if he is satisfied that adequate grounds exist for doing so, but no Magistrate shall authorize the detention of the accused person in custody under this paragraph for a total period exceeding:

(i) ninety days, where the investigation relates to an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years;

(ii) sixty days, where the investigation relates to any other offence, and on the expiry of the said period of ninety days, or sixty days, as the case may be, the accused the person shall be released on bail if he is prepared to and does furnish bail, and every person released on bail under this subsection shall be deemed to be so released under the provisions of Chapter XXXIII for the purposes of that Chapter.

[2] The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, § 167(2)(a)(ii).

[3] The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, § 167(2)(a)(i).

[4] The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, § 7.

[5] The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, § 13(1)(b)(2).

[6] The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, § 13(2).

[7] Supra note, 4.

[8] Supra note, 5.

[9] Supra note, 1.

[10] Supra note,6.

[11] Supra note,6.

[12] Rajeev Chaudhary vs State (NCT) of Delhi, AIR 2001 SC 2369.

[13] Bhupinder Singh vs Jarnail Singh, MANU/SC/8229/2006.

[14] Supra note, 3.

[15] Supra note, 13.

[16] Supra note,6.

[17] Rakesh Kumar Paul v. the State of Assam, MANU/SCOR/28952/2017.

[18] The Criminal Procedure Code, 1898.

[19] The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

[20] Supra note, 12.

[21] The Indian Penal Code, 1860, § 386. This section says that “Extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt.—Whoever commits extortion by putting any person in fear of death or of grievous hurt o that person or to any other, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

[22] Supra note, 13.

[23] The Indian Penal Code, 1860, § 304-B. This section says that-

1. Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage, and it is shown that soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or har­assment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with any demand for dowry, such death shall be called “dowry death”, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death. Explanation.—For the purpose of this sub-section, “dowry” shall have the same meaning as in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961).

2. Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprison­ment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.]

[24] Supra note, 13.

[25] Supra note, 16.

[26] See Id., 25.

[27] Supra note, 16.

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