In the matter of Sonu v. Sonu Yadav & Anr., the Supreme Court on 5th April 2021 set aside the Allahabad High Court decision to grant bail to a man accused of dowry death. The Court while observing that the High Court failed to take the seriousness of the alleged offence into account, observed that “an order without reasons is fundamentally contrary to the norms which guide the judicial process. The administration of criminal justice by the High Court cannot be reduced to a mantra containing a recitation of general observations.”
The First Information Report was registered on the complaint of the appellant (Sonu), who is the brother of the deceased. It was alleged that at the time of the marriage of the deceased and the first Respondent (Sonu Yadav), certain amount of cash, household articles and a motor vehicle was given in dowry. Not satisfied with it, more amount was asked by the first respondent from the appellant, threatening to kill his sister otherwise. However, the next day, the appellant is alleged to have received a call from the first respondent to take away the dead body of his sister.
A charge-sheet was submitted for offences alleged under Sections 498-A and 304-B of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 and 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act. The bail application filed by the first respondent was rejected by the Sessions Judge. The High Court had observed that “Considering the entire facts and circumstances of the case, submissions of learned counsel for the parties and keeping in view the nature of offence, evidence, complicity of accused and without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, the Court is of the view that the applicant has made out a case for bail. The bail application is allowed.”
On appeal, the Supreme Court held that: –
- Prima facie, there are serious allegations in the FIR in regard to the harassment suffered by the deceased in close proximity to her death over demands for dowry by the accused. In view of the provisions of Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code, as well as the presumption which arises under Section 113-B of the Evidence Act, the High Court was clearly not justified in granting bail.
- The High Court has merely recorded the submissions and proceeded to grant bail without any evaluation of the rival submissions.
- The High Court cannot be oblivious, in a case such as the present, of the seriousness of the alleged offence, where a woman has met an unnatural end within a year of marriage. The seriousness of the alleged offence has to be evaluated in the backdrop of the allegation that she was being harassed for dowry.
- An order without reasons is fundamentally contrary to the norms which guide the judicial process. The administration of criminal justice by the High Court cannot be reduced to a mantra containing a recitation of general observations.
- That there has been a judicious application of mind by the judge who is deciding an application under Section 439 of the CrPC must emerge from the quality of the reasoning which is embodied in the order granting bail. While the reasons may be brief, it is the quality of the reasons which matters the most.
- For the abovementioned reasons, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned judgment and order of the Single Judge of the Allahabad High Court decision of granting bail to the first respondent.
– Esha Shah, Paralegal