Long delay in lodging FIR valid ground for anticipatory bail: SC

New Delhi, The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that a long delay like 29 years can certainly be a valid consideration for grant of anticipatory bail, as it granted this relief to former Punjab Director General of Police Sumedh Singh Saini in the three-decade-old Balwant Singh Multani murder case.

A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and comprising Justices R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah noted that the FIR has been lodged/filed by the brother of the deceased after a period of almost 29 years from the date of incident.

“Many a time, delay may not be fatal to the criminal proceedings. However, it always depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case. However, at the same time, a long delay like 29 years as in the present case can certainly be a valid consideration for grant of anticipatory bail,” it said.

The bench added that in case police arrests Saini, he would be released on bail on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh with two sureties of the like amount. The top court said Saini will have to cooperate in the investigations into the murder case.

Saini was also asked to surrender his passport, and has also been directed to stay away from witnesses in the alleged murder case.

The top court noted that Saini retired in the year 2018 as Director General of Police, Punjab after 30 years of service and the alleged incident is of the year 1991 and even in the present FIR, initially there was no allegation for the offence under Section 302 IPC and the allegations were only for the offences under Sections 364, 201, 344, 330, 219 and 120B of the IPC, for which there was an order of anticipatory bail in favour of him.

“Subsequently the offence under Section 302 IPC has been added on the basis of the statements of Jagir Singh and Kuldip Singh – approvers only… we are of the opinion that the appellant has made out a case for anticipatory bail,” it said.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked the Punjab government not to file new cases against Saini as he sought quashing of a fresh FIR lodged against him in the 1991 alleged murder of junior engineer Multani.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Saini, had submitted it seems that every day his client would have to challenge a new case.

“Now my client says third case has been registered. How will one man fight against the might of the state. The vendetta (by the present Chief Minister) needs to be stopped. Why can probe continue on the statement of the approver. What the state is doing is unfair,” he argued.

In September, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had dismissed Saini’s plea seeking anticipatory bail in the alleged murder case.

Multani, a resident of Mohali, was picked up by police after a terrorist attack on Saini, who was then the Senior Superintendent of Police in Chandigarh, in 1991. Later, police claimed Multani had escaped police custody.

In May, Saini was booked at a police station in Mohali along with six others in the case and in August, murder charge was added after two of the accused policemen gave details of the incident.

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