top of page
  • Writer's pictureLLC

Anticipatory Bail

According to the report of the National Police Commission, the power of arrest is grossly abused and clearly violates the personal liberty of the people, as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution, then the courts need to take serious notice of it. When conviction rate is admittedly less than 10%, then the police should be slow in arresting the accused. The courts considering the bail application should try to maintain fine balance between the societal interest vis-à-vis personal liberty while adhering to the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that the accused that the accused is presumed to be innocent till he is found guilty by the competent court.

How anticipatory bail was introduced :

On the recommendation of the Law Commission of India in its 41st Report dated 24.09.1969, the Parliament introduced a new provision in the form of “anticipatory bail” under Section 438 of the Cr.P.C. It is submitted that the Law Commission of India in its 41 st Report stated in paragraph 39.9 the justification for power to grant “anticipatory bail”. It is submitted that as per the Law Commission the necessity for granting “anticipatory bail” arises mainly because sometimes influential persons try to implicate their rivals in false cases for the purpose of disgracing them or for other purposes by getting them detained in jail for some days. The Law Commission further observed that with the accentuation of political rivalry, this tendency is showing signs of steady increase. Apart from false cases, where there are reasonable grounds for holding that a person accused of an offence is not likely to abscond, or otherwise misuse his liberty, while on bail, there seems to be no justification to require him to first submit to custody, remain in prison for some days, and then apply for bail.It is generally referred to as “anticipatory bail”, an expression which was used by the Law Commission in its 41 st Report.

Any order of bail can, of course, be effective only from the date of arrest because to grant bail as stated in Wharton’s Law Lexicon, is to “set at liberty a person arrested or imprisoned, on security being taken for his appearance”. It is submitted that thus, bail is basically release from restraint, more particularly, release from the custody of the police. It is submitted that the act of arrest directly affects freedom of movement of the person arrested by the police, and speaking generally, an order of bail gives back to the accused that freedom on condition that he will appear to take his trial. Taking a surety, bonds and such other modalities are the means by which an assurance is secured from the accused that though he has been released on bail, he will present himself at the trial of the offence or offences of which he is charged and for which he was arrested. It is submitted that the distinction between an ordinary order of bail and an order of anticipatory bail is that whereas the former is granted after arrest and therefore means release from the custody of the police, the latter is granted in anticipation of arrest and is therefore effective at the very moment of arrest. It is submitted that in other words, unlike a post­-arrest order of bail, it is a pre­arrest legal process which directs that if the person in whose favour it is issued is thereafter arrested on the accusation in respect of which the direction is issued, he shall be released on bail.

Can a pre-arrest bail order be defeated after cognizance has been taken? Two very important aspects in Section 438(3) Cr.P.C. which are relevant to be considered to understand the scheme of the Code, viz., (a) a person in whose favour a pre­ arrest bail order has been made under Section 438 has first to be arrested. Such a person is then released on bail on the basis of the pre­arrest bail order. For such release the person has to comply with the requirement of Section 441 of giving a bond or surety; and (b) where the magistrate taking cognizance under Section 204 is of the view that a warrant is required to be issued at the first instance, such magistrate is only empowered to issue only a bailable warrant and not a non­bailable warrant. This curtailment of power of the magistrate clearly shows the intent of the legislature that a person who has been granted bail under Section 438 ought not to be arrested at the stage of cognizance because of the said pre­arrest bail order.


Section 438(1) of the Code lays down a condition which has to be satisfied before anticipatory bail can be granted. The applicant must show that he has “reason to believe” that he may be arrested for a non-bailable offence. The use of the expression “reason to believe” shows that the belief that the applicant may be so arrested must be founded on reasonable grounds. Mere ‘fear’ is not ‘belief’, for which reason it is not enough for the applicant to show that he has some sort of a vague apprehension that some one is going to make an accusation against him, in pursuance of which he may be arrested. The grounds on which the belief of the applicant is based that he may be arrested for a non-bailable offence, must be capable of being examined by the court objectively, because it is then alone that the court can determine whether the applicant has reason to believe that he may be so arrested. Section 438(1), therefore, cannot be invoked on the basis of vague and general allegations, as if to arm oneself in perpetuity against a possible arrest. Otherwise, the number of applications for anticipatory bail will be as large as, at any rate, the adult populace. Anticipatory bail is a device to secure the individuals liberty; it is neither a passport to the commission of crimes nor a shield against any and all kinds of accusations, likely or unlikely. superior court cannot send the matter to lower court to decide the matter :-

If an application for anticipatory bail is made to the High Court or the Court of Session it must apply its own mind to the question and decide whether a case has been made out for granting such relief. It cannot leave the question for the decision of the Magistrate concerned under Section 437 of the Code, as and when an occasion arises. Such a course will defeat the very object of Section 438.

reasonable belief not filing of an FIR is condition precedent :-

The filing of a first information report is not a condition precedent to the exercise of the power under Section 438. The imminence of a likely arrest founded on a reasonable belief can be shown to exist even if an FIR is not yet filed.

Anticipatory bail can be granted even after an FIR is filed, so long as the applicant has not been arrested. The provisions of Section 438 cannot be invoked after the arrest of the accused. The grant of “anticipatory bail” to an accused who is under arrest involves a contradiction in terms, insofar as the offence or offences for which he is arrested, are concerned. After arrest, the accused must seek his remedy under Section 437 or Section 439 of the Code, if he wants to be released on bail in respect of the offence or offences for which he is arrested.

‘Blanket order’ of anticipatory bail should not generally be passed. This flows from the very language of the section which, as discussed above, requires the applicant to show that he has “reason to believe” that he may be arrested. A belief can be said to be founded on reasonable grounds only if there is something tangible to go by on the basis of which it can be said that the applicant's apprehension that he may be arrested is genuine. That is why, normally, a direction should not issue under Section 438(1) to the effect that the applicant shall be released on bail “whenever arrested for whichever offence whatsoever”. That is what is meant by a ‘blanket order’ of anticipatory bail, an order which serves as a blanket to cover or protect any and every kind of allegedly unlawful activity, in fact any eventuality, likely or unlikely regarding which, no concrete information can possibly be had. The rationale of a direction under Section 438(1) is the belief of the applicant founded on reasonable grounds that he may be arrested for a non-bailable offence. It is unrealistic to expect the applicant to draw up his application with the meticulousness of a pleading in a civil case and such is not requirement of the section. But specific events and facts must be disclosed by the applicant in order to enable the court to judge of the reasonableness of his belief, the existence of which is the sine qua non of the exercise of power conferred by the section.

General condition to surrender himself to the police for a brief period if a discovery is to be made :-

the applicant should surrender himself to the police for a brief period if a discovery is to be made under Section 27 of the Evidence Act or that he should be deemed to have surrendered himself if such a discovery is to be made. In certain exceptional cases, the court has, in view of the material placed before it, directed that the order of anticipatory bail will remain in operation only for a week or so until after the filing of the FIR in respect of matters covered by the order. These orders, on the whole, have worked satisfactorily, causing the least inconvenience to the individuals concerned and least interference with the investigational rights of the police. The court has attempted through those orders to strike a balance between the individual's right to personal freedom and the investigational rights of the police. The appellants who were refused anticipatory bail by various courts have long since been released by this Court under Section 438(1) of the Code.

How the court will consider the complaint/FIR against the accused? Complaint filed against the accused needs to be thoroughly examined including the aspect whether the complainant has filed false or frivolous complaint on earlier occasion. The court should also examine the fact whether there The is any family dispute between the accused and the complainant and the complainant must be clearly told that if the complaint is found to be false or frivolous, then strict action will be taken against him in accordance with law. If the connivance between the complainant and the investigating officer is established then action be taken against the investigating officer in accordance with law. The gravity of charge and exact role of the accused must be properly comprehended. Before arrest, the arresting officer must record the valid reasons which have led to the arrest of the accused in the case diary. In exceptional cases the reasons could be recorded immediately after the arrest, so that while dealing with the bail application, the remarks and observations of the arresting officer can also be properly evaluated by the court.

It is imperative for the courts to carefully and with meticulous precision evaluate the facts of the case. The discretion must be exercised on the basis of the available material and the facts of the particular case. In cases where the court is of the considered view that the accused has joined investigation and he is fully cooperating with the investigating agency and is not likely to abscond, in that event, custodial interrogation should be avoided.

A great ignominy, humiliation and disgrace is attached to the arrest. Arrest leads to many serious consequences not only for the accused but for the entire family and at times for the entire community. Most people do not make any distinction between arrest at a pre-conviction stage or post- conviction stage.

A person seeking anticipatory bail is still a free man entitled to the presumption of innocence. He is willing to submit to restraints and conditions on his freedom, by the acceptance of conditions which the court may deem fit to impose, in consideration of the assurance that if arrested, he shall enlarged on bail.

The proper course of action ought to be that after evaluating the averments and accusation available on the record if the court is inclined to grant anticipatory bail then an interim bail be granted and notice be issued to the public prosecutor. After hearing the public prosecutor the court may either reject the bail application or confirm the initial order of granting bail. The court would certainly be entitled to impose conditions for the grant of bail. The public prosecutor or complainant would be at liberty to move the same court for cancellation or modifying the conditions of bail any time if liberty granted by the court is misused. The bail granted by the court should ordinarily be continued till the trial of the case.

It is a settled legal position that the court which grants the bail also has the power to cancel it. The discretion of grant or cancellation of bail can be exercised either at the instance of the accused, the public prosecutor or the complainant on finding new material or circumstances at any point of time.The court which grants the bail has the right to cancel the bail according to the provisions of the act , ordinarily after hearing the public prosecutor when the bail order is confirmed then the benefit of the grant of the bail should continue till the end of the trial of that case.

The intention of the legislature is quite clear that the power of grant or refusal of bail is entirely discretionary. The grant and refusal is discretionary and it should depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. The Constitution Bench in the said case has aptly observed that we must respect the wisdom of the Legislature entrusting this power to the superior courts namely, the High Court and the Court of Session.


The question which arises for consideration is whether the powers under section 438 Cr.P.C. are unguided or uncanalised or are subject to all the limitations of section 437 Cr.P.C.? There is no justification for reading into section 438 Cr.P.C. and the limitations mentioned in section 437 Cr.P.C. The plentitude of the section must be given its full play. The Constitution Bench in Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia v. State of Punjab has also observed that the Punjab and Haryana High Court is not right in observing that the accused must make out a “special case” for the exercise of the power to grant anticipatory bail. This virtually, reduces the salutary power conferred by section 438 Cr.P.C. to a dead letter. The Court observed that “We do not see why the provisions of Section 438 Cr.P.C. should be suspected as containing something volatile or incendiary, which needs to be handled with the greatest care and caution imaginable.”

The following factors and parameters can be taken into consideration while dealing with the anticipatory bail:

i. The nature and gravity of the accusation and the exact role of the accused must be properly comprehended before arrest is made;

ii. The antecedents of the applicant including the fact as to whether the accused has previously undergone imprisonment on conviction by a Court in respect of any cognizable offence;

iii. The possibility of the applicant to flee from justice;

iv. The possibility of the accused's likelihood to repeat similar or the other offences.

v. Where the accusations have been made only with the object of injuring or humiliating the applicant by arresting him or her.

vi. Impact of grant of anticipatory bail particularly in cases of large magnitude affecting a very large number of people.

vii. The courts must evaluate the entire available material against the accused very carefully. The court must also clearly comprehend the exact role of the accused in the case. The cases in which accused is implicated with the help of sections 34 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code, the court should consider with even greater care and caution because over implication in the cases is a matter of common knowledge and concern;

viii. While considering the prayer for grant of anticipatory bail, a balance has to be struck between two factors namely, no prejudice should be caused to the free, fair and full investigation and there should be prevention of harassment, humiliation and unjustified detention of the accused;

ix. The court to consider reasonable apprehension of tampering of the witness or apprehension of threat to the complainant;

x. Frivolity in prosecution should always be considered and it is only the element of genuineness that shall have to be considered in the matter of grant of bail and in the event of there being some doubt as to the genuineness of the prosecution, in the normal course of events, the accused is entitled to an order of bail.

The arrest should be the last option and it should be restricted to those exceptional cases where arresting the accused is imperative in the facts and circumstances of that case.

The court must carefully examine the entire available record and particularly the allegations which have been directly attributed to the accused and these allegations are corroborated by other material and circumstances on record

These are some of the factors which should be taken into consideration while deciding the anticipatory bail applications. These factors are by no means exhaustive but they are only illustrative in nature because it is difficult to clearly visualize all situations and circumstances in which a person may pray for anticipatory bail. If a wise discretion is exercised by the concerned judge, after consideration of entire material on record then most of the grievances in favour of grant of or refusal of bail will be taken care of. The legislature in its wisdom has entrusted the power to exercise this jurisdiction only to the judges of the superior courts. In consonance with the legislative intention we should accept the fact that the discretion would be properly exercised. In any event, the option of approaching the superior court against the court of Sessions or the High Court is always available.

Supreme Court of India - Constitutional Bench Judgment (very important)

Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia Etc vs State Of Punjab on 9 April, 1980

Equivalent citations: 1980 AIR 1632, 1980 SCR (3) 383

i) Grant of an order of unconditional anticipatory bail would be “plainly contrary to the very terms of Section 438.” Even though the terms of Section 438(1) confer discretion, Section 438(2) “confers on the court the power to include such conditions in the direction as it may think fit in the light of the facts of the particular case, including the conditions mentioned in clauses (i) to (iv) of that sub-section.”

(ii) Grant of an order under Section 438(1) does not per se hamper investigation of an offence; Section 438(1)(i) and (ii) enjoin that an accused/applicant should co-operate with investigation. Sibbia (supra) also stated that courts can fashion appropriate conditions governing bail, as well. One condition can be that if the police make out a case of likely recovery of objects or discovery of facts under Section 27 (of the Evidence Act, 1872), the accused may be taken into custody. Given that there is no formal method prescribed by Section 46 of the Code if recovery is made during a statement (to the police) and pursuant to the accused volunteering the fact, it would be a case of recovery during “deemed arrest”

(iii) The accused is not obliged to make out a special case for grant of anticipatory bail; reading an otherwise wide power would fetter the court’s discretion. Whenever an application (for relief under Section 438) is moved, discretion has to be always exercised judiciously, and with caution, having regard to the facts of every case.

(iv) While the power of granting anticipatory bail is not ordinary, at the same time, its use is not confined to exceptional cases

(v) It is not justified to require courts to only grant anticipatory bail in special cases made out by accused, since the power is extraordinary, or that several considerations – spelt out in Section 437- or other considerations, are to be kept in mind

(vi) Overgenerous introduction (or reading into) of constraints on the power to grant anticipatory bail would render it Constitutionally vulnerable. Since fair procedure is part of Article 21, the court should not throw the provision (i.e. Section 438) open to challenge “by reading words in it which are not to be found therein

(vii) There is no “inexorable rule” that anticipatory bail cannot be granted unless the applicant is the target of mala fides. There are several relevant considerations to be factored in, by the court, while considering whether to grant or refuse anticipatory bail. Nature and seriousness of the proposed charges, the context of the events likely to lead to the making of the charges, a reasonable possibility of the accused’s presence not being secured during trial; a reasonable apprehension that the witnesses might be tampered with, and “the larger interests of the public or the state” are some of the considerations. A person seeking relief (of anticipatory bail) continues to be a man presumed to be innocent.

(viii) There can be no presumption that any class of accused- i.e. those accused of particular crimes, or those belonging to the poorer sections, are likely to abscond

(ix) Courts should exercise their discretion while considering applications for anticipatory bail (as they do in the case of bail). It would be unwise to divest or limit their discretion by prescribing “inflexible rules of general application

(x) The apprehension of an applicant, who seeks anticipatory bail (about his imminent or possible arrest) should be based on reasonable grounds, and rooted on objective facts or materials, capable of examination and evaluation, by the court, and not based on vague un-spelt apprehensions

(xi) The grounds for seeking anticipatory bail should be examined by the High Court or Court of Session, which should not leave the question for decision by the concerned Magistrate

(xii) Filing of FIR is not a condition precedent for exercising power under Section 438; it can be done on a showing of reasonable belief of imminent arrest (of the applicant).

(xiii) Anticipatory bail can be granted even after filing of an FIR- as long as the applicant is not arrested. However, after arrest, an application for anticipatory bail is not maintainable

(xiv) A blanket order under Section 438, directing the police to not arrest the applicant, “wherever arrested and for whatever offence” should not be issued. An order based on reasonable apprehension relating to specific facts (though not spelt out with exactness) can be made. A blanket order would seriously interfere with the duties of the police to enforce the law and prevent commission of offences in the future

(xv) The public prosecutor should be issued notice, upon considering an application under Section 438; an ad interim order can be made.

The ad interim order too must conform to the requirements of the section and suitable conditions should be imposed on the applicant even at that stage. “Should the operation of an order passed under Section 438(1) be limited in point of time? Not necessarily.

The court may, if there are reasons for doing so, limit the operation of the order to a short period until after the filing of an FIR in respect of the matter covered by the order. The applicant may in such cases be directed to obtain an order of bail under Section 437 or 439 of the Code within a reasonably short period after the filing of the FIR as aforesaid. But this need not be followed as an invariable rule. The normal rule should be not to limit the operation of the order in relation to a period of time


A fuller consideration of the various decisions cited earlier, especially those which emphasized the need to limit the life of an order of anticipatory bail, are premised on the understanding that the grant of an unconditional order of bail would thwart investigation. In the first place, this premise is unfounded, given that Sibbia (supra) stated (in para 13, SCC reports) that such an order would be “contrary to the In P. Chidambaram v. Directorate of Enforcement, (2019) 9 SCC 24 it was held as follows:

“However, the court must also keep in view that a criminal offence is not just an offence against an individual, rather the larger societal interest is at stake. Therefore, a delicate balance is required to be established between the two rights—safeguarding the personal liberty of an individual and the societal interest….. Grant of anticipatory bail at the stage of investigation may frustrate the investigating agency in interrogating the accused and in collecting the useful information and also the materials which might have been concealed. Success in such interrogation would elude if the accused knows that he is protected by the order of the court. Grant of anticipatory bail, particularly in economic offences would definitely hamper the effective investigation. Having regard to the materials said to have been collected by the respondent Enforcement Directorate and considering the stage of the investigation, we are of the view that it is not a fit case to grant anticipatory bail".


“One of such conditions can even be that in the event of the police making out a case of a likely discovery under Section 27 of the Evidence Act, person released on bail shall be liable to be taken in police custody for facilitating the discovery. Besides, if and when the occasion arises, it may be possible for the prosecution to claim the benefit of Section 27 of the Evidence Act in regard to a discovery of facts made in pursuance of information supplied by a person released on bail by invoking the principle stated by this Court in State of U.P. v Deoman Upadhyaya.” Therefore, the “limited custody” or “deemed custody” to facilitate the requirements of the investigative authority, would be sufficient for the purpose of fulfilling the provisions of Section 27, in the event of recovery of an article, or discovery of a fact, which is relatable to a statement made during such event (i.e deemed custody). In such event, there is no question (or necessity) of asking the accused to separately surrender and seek regular bail.


Sushila Aggarwal vs State (Nct Of Delhi) on 29 January, 2020


Having regard to the above discussion, it is clarified that the court should keep the following points as guiding principles, in dealing with applications under Section 438, Cr. PC:

(a) As held in Sibbia, when a person apprehends arrest and approaches a court for anticipatory bail, his apprehension (of arrest), has to be based on concrete facts (and not vague or general allegations) relatable a specific offence or particular of offences. Applications for anticipatory bail should contain clear and essential facts relating to the offence, and why the applicant reasonably apprehends his or her arrest, as well as his version of the facts. These are important for the court which considering the application, to extent and reasonableness of the threat or apprehension, its gravity or seriousness and the appropriateness of any condition that may have to be imposed. It is not a necessary condition that an application should be moved only after an FIR is filed; it can be moved earlier, so long as the facts are clear and there is reasonable basis for apprehending arrest.

(b) The court, before which an application under Section 438, is filed, depending on the seriousness of the threat (of arrest) as a measure of caution, may issue notice to the public prosecutor and obtain facts, even while granting limited interim anticipatory bail.

(c) Section 438 Cr. PC does not compel or oblige courts to impose conditions limiting relief in terms of time, or upon filing of FIR, or recording of statement of any witness, by the police, during investigation or inquiry, etc. While weighing and considering an application (for grant of anticipatory bail) the court has to consider the nature of the offence, the role of the person, the likelihood of his influencing the course of investigation, or tampering with evidence (including intimidating witnesses), likelihood of fleeing justice (such as leaving the country), etc. The courts would be justified – and ought to impose conditions spelt out in Section 437 (3), Cr. PC [by virtue of Section 438 (2)]. The necessity to impose other restrictive conditions, would have to be weighed on a case by case basis, and depending upon the materials produced by the state or the investigating agency. Such special or other restrictive conditions may be imposed if the case or cases warrant, but should not be imposed in a routine manner, in all cases. Likewise, conditions which limit the grant of anticipatory bail may be granted, if they are required in the facts of any case or cases; however, such limiting conditions may not be invariably imposed.

(d) Courts ought to be generally guided by the considerations such nature and gravity of the offences, the role attributed to the applicant, and the facts of the case, while assessing whether to grant anticipatory bail, or refusing it. Whether to grant or not is a matter of discretion; equally whether, and if so, what kind of special conditions are to be imposed (or not imposed) are dependent on facts of the case, and subject to the discretion of the court.

(e) Anticipatory bail granted can, depending on the conduct and behavior of the accused, continue after filing of the charge sheet till end of trial. Also orders of anticipatory bail should not be “blanket” in the sense that it should not enable the accused to commit further offences and claim relief. It should be confined to the offence or incident, for which apprehension of arrest is sought, in relation to a specific incident. It cannot operate in respect of a future incident that involves commission of an offence.

(f) Orders of anticipatory bail do not in any manner limit or restrict the rights or duties of the police or investigating agency, to investigate into the charges against the person who seeks and is granted pre-arrest bail.

(g) The observations in Sibbia regarding “limited custody” or “deemed custody” to facilitate the requirements of the investigative authority, would be sufficient for the purpose of fulfilling the provisions of Section 27, in the event of recovery of an article, or discovery of a fact, which is relatable to a statement made during such event (i.e. deemed custody). In such event, there is no question (or necessity) of asking the accused to separately surrender and seek regular bail. Sibbia (supra) had observed that “if and when the occasion arises, it may be possible for the prosecution to claim the benefit of Section 27 of the Evidence Act in regard to a discovery of facts made in pursuance of information supplied by a person released on bail by invoking the principle stated by this Court in State of U.P. v Deoman Upadhyaya.”

(h) It is open to the police or the investigating agency to move the court concerned, which granted anticipatory bail, in the first instance, for a direction under Section 439 (2) to arrest the accused, in the event of violation of any term, such as absconding, non-cooperating during investigation, evasion, intimidation or inducement to witnesses with a view to influence outcome of the investigation or trial, etc. The court – in this context is the court which grants anticipatory bail, in the first instance, according to prevailing authorities.

The correctness of an order granting bail, can be considered by the appellate or superior court at the behest of the state or investigating agency, and set aside on the ground that the court granting it did not consider material facts or crucial circumstances.