Section 170 CrPC does not impose obligation on Police Officer to arrest accused at the time of filing of chargesheet: Supreme Court

The Court held that “custody” in Section 170 of CrPC does not contemplate either police or judicial custody but only presentation of the accused by the investigating officer before the court while filing chargesheet.
Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy
Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy

The Supreme Court has ruled that Section 170 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) does does not impose an obligation on the Officer-in-charge to arrest each and every accused at the time of filing of the chargesheet (Siddharth v. State of Uttar Pradesh).

A Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy held that the word “custody” appearing in Section 170 of the CrPC does not contemplate either police or judicial custody but it merely connotes the presentation of the accused by the Investigating Officer before the court while filing the chargesheet.

"We are of the view that if the Investigating Officer does not believe that the accused will abscond or disobey summons he/she is not required to be produced in custody (while filing chargesheet)," the Court held.

The top court was hearing a plea against a judgment of the Allahabad High Court which had rejected anticipatory bail plea of the accused.

By way of background, a first information report (FIR) was registered against the appellant for entering into a conspiracy and criminal breach of trust committed by former ministers and high-ranking officials including Nasimuddin Siddiqui (Ex-Minister) and Babu Singh Khushawa (Ex-Minister) in the State of UP for their involvement in relation to a project initiated by the State Government in the year 2007 to build parks and museums which allegedly caused a loss of Rs. 14,000 crores to the exchequer.

The petitioner was a supplier of sandstone and made a total supply worth Rs. 90 Lakh but till date only received 26 Lakhs. The remainder/balance remains unpaid till date.

Counsel for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Pramod kumar Dubey along with advocate Ravi Sharma argued that the investigation has been ongoing for the last 7 years and the petitioner has joined investigation. It was contended that there was no need for custodial interrogation of the accused. It was also contended that the petitioner was a mere supplier with no connection with the alleged crime. It was submitted that there was no apprehension of the petitioner fleeing from justice or tampering of evidence.

The counsel for State government opposed the plea arguing that custodial interrogation of the accused was necessary and Section 170 mandates the police to take the accused into custody before presentation of chargesheet.

The Supreme Court noted that personal liberty is an important aspect of Constitutional mandate and that an "occasion to arrest an accused during investigation arises when custodial investigation becomes necessary or it is a heinous crime or where there is a possibility of influencing the witnesses or accused may abscond".

The Court underscored that merely because an arrest can be made because it is lawful does not mandate that arrest must be made.

If arrests are made in a routine manner then it causes harm to the reputation of a person, the Court said.

"If the Investigating Officer has no reason to believe that the accused will abscond or disobey summons and has, in fact, throughout cooperated with the investigation we fail to appreciate why there should be a compulsion on the officer to arrest the accused,” the top court observed.

The Court also examined the scope of Section 170 and various High Court judgments in this regard.

Specific reliance was placed on Delhi High Court judgment in Court on its own motion v. Central Bureau of Investigation [2004 (72) DRJ 629].

"The Delhi High Court is not alone in having adopted this view and other High Courts apparently have also followed suit on the proposition that criminal courts cannot refuse to accept a chargesheet simply because the accused has not been arrested and produced before the court," the Court said.

In view of the above, the Court set aside the High Court order and allowed the appeal.

[Read Order]

Sidharth v. State of U.P and Anr.pdf
Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news