Not Court's Job To Monitor Police Investigations: SC

Top court says mere gravity of the allegation does not impede the grant of a pre-arrest bail if reasonable grounds are available on a tentative review of the evidence

Not Court's Job To Monitor Police Investigations: SC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that it was not the court's duty to monitor investigations, adding that anticipatory bail can be granted in exceptional circumstances. 

The top court further observed that it has limited and restricted jurisdiction to intervene in a criminal investigation.

These observations were made by a two-judge bench comprising Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar as it issued a written order on a bail plea.

In the verdict penned by Justice Mazhar, the top court observed that the court could only monitor a police investigation if the conduct of the assigned Investigation Officer (IO) appeared to be mala fide or if he abused his powers. 

"It is not the duty of the court to monitor the investigation unless the investigation conducted by the IO appears to be mala fide, an abuse of power, or in violation of the relevant provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), therefore, the jurisdictional extent of 
intervention by the court in the course of the investigation is restricted and limited," the top court maintained. 

The Supreme Court further said that the primary responsibility of investigating a crime rests with the police, in which the investigative officer's role is dominant. 

"It is a well-settled exposition of law that investigating crimes is the responsibility of the police, and the IO performs a vital and dominant role in this regard," the top court said. 

The case

Petitioner Mir Muhammad had been nominated in a case of attempted murder, lodged under Sections 324 (attempt to murder), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with armed weapons), 149 (prosecution of all members of unlawful assembly), and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) in Tando Allahyar.  

The complainant claimed that Mir Muhammad had inflicted a firearm injury to the back of his brother, Imran, while shooting at the complainant with the intent to cause bodily harm.

However, according to the petitioner's counsel, his client was falsely implicated in the case. 

Mir Muhammad's counsel, however, argued that the case had been lodged against him on mala fide intentions because the petitioner was a contesting candidate in a previous election, and that he has been made a scapegoat in this case. 

The petitioner's counsel further argued that while it has been claimed in the FIR that an injury was caused by a firearm, the medico-legal report of the injury showed it had been caused by a sharp-edged cutting weapon (for example, a knife or any other sharp blade or edge). 

He further referred to a report prepared by a Special Medical Board, which had the unanimous opinion that the injuries mentioned in the medico-legal report were fabricated.

The bench confronted the Sindh Additional Prosecutor General and the complainant over findings in the final medico-legal report, but they could not account for the inconsistencies between the injuries mentioned in the FIR and the initial medico-legal report. 

"There is no cavil that in the FIR, the petitioner has been assigned the specific role of causing a firearm injury to the injured however, in the final medico-legal report, dated April 20, 2023, the alleged injuries are said to have been caused by a “sharp cutting” object, and subsequently the injured Imran was examined by the Special Medical Board, which, vide the medico-legal report dated August 3, 2023, found the injuries to be fabricated."

Moreover, the court noted that the investigation officer assigned to the case had told the court that he did not find Mir Muhammad guilty, adding that he also submitted a report under Section 168 CrPC to the SHO of the relevant police station, but he ignored the report without any rhyme or reason. 

The top court said that the precise role of the accused must be determined, and the court must also gauge the existing material to reach a tentative assessment on whether the accused has been indicted with the object of injuring, demeaning or disgracing his image and reputation. 

"No doubt, anticipatory bail can be granted in the exceptional circumstances," the top court observed. 

"The jurisdiction to consider the grounds of bail in pre-arrest and post-arrest are different."
The court further said: "The remedy of pre-arrest bail is meant to safeguard and shelter an innocent person who has been dragged into a case with mala fide intention or ulterior motives by the complainant or prosecution."

"While entreating the exercise of discretion of the court for the grant of anticipatory bail, the accused is obligated to demonstrate that the case 
against him is based on mala fide and must divulge reasonable grounds to substantiate that he is not guilty of the offence and that sufficient grounds are available to lead further inquiry."

The court explained that the concepts of mala fide, ulterior motives or false implication are elementary and indispensable constituents for "enlarging the accused on pre-arrest bail with the imminent apprehension of his arrest if the bail is declined.".

"The mere gravity of the allegation does not impede the grant of pre-arrest bail if reasonable grounds are otherwise available on a tentative appraisal of the evidence," the top court further said.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain