Rule of Consistency in Bail Matters: Like Shall be Treated Alike. Grounds of Both the Accused Must be Same for Applying the Rule of Consistency: SC
Rule of consistency is a rule under which an accused seeks bail from the court alleging that on the basis of grant of bail to the co-accused, equal treatment shall be extended to him on the basis of consistency and equality. This rule is attracted and plays a pivotal role in deciding whether or not an accused should be released on bail when a co-accused is granted bail and the accused is denied.
The question arises what is that which has to be compared between the case of the accused and co-accused which forms the basis of the rule of consistency: whether it is solely the role attributed to the accused persons or the other materials available on record and the contents of the FIR shall be taken into account along with the role attributed to the accused and the co-accused.
A similar case was brought up before the Supreme Court wherein two of the accused in a murder case were granted bail on the ground of further inquiry, as both of them were not present at the spot at the time of occurrence. The accused/petitioner was denied bail by the trail court as well as the HC as he not only was present at the spot but weapon was also recovered from him. Thus, he was denied to be released on bail.
He approached the Supreme Court for grant of bail on the basis of the rule of consistency, as the co-accused have been granted bail in the same case where same offences had been alleged against all the accused persons. In this background, the Court framed a question that what is that which forms basis of the rule of consistency: whether it is the role attributed to the accused persons or it is the role along with other factors, like contents of the FIR, facts came to the light during the investigation, recovery and all other material available on record.
The Court held that Article 25 of the Constitution affords equal treatment to all persons who are equally placed in equal circumstances. This rule is not absolute which can be made applicable to all persons whether they are placed equally or not. With regard to the actual question before the Court that what forms the basis of the rule of consistency, the Court ruled that “…The grounds which form the basis for the grant of bail to a co-accused is thus the benchmark for grant of bail to the accused under the rule of consistency…”. The Court asserted that the courts have to analyze and examine the whole material available on record to determine whether the accused who is seeking bail on the ground of the rule of consistency and the co-accused who has already been granted bail are similarly placed. Without examining the whole record, the court cannot reach the conclusion to determine the equality between the accused persons, and without determining the equality, the court cannot determine the question of applicability of the rule of consistency. Hence, the question of applicability of the rule of consistency can only be decided once the whole evidence has been examined.
The Court at the end reached the conclusion that it is not only the role attributed to the accused and co-accused, but it is also the whole material available on record which ought to be taken into account to decide whether the accused is similarly placed with the co-accused in similar circumstances. If so, he shall be granted bail on the rule of consistency, otherwise not.
In the case at hand, the accused was not sharing similar circumstances with the co-accused, as the accused was found present at the spot and weapon was also recovered from him. On the other hand, the co-accused were neither present at the spot nor any recovery was made qua the murder from them. Hence, this proves that though a similar role of murder was attributed to the accused persons but they were not similarly placed. Bail was denied to the accused/petitioner on the ground of the rule of consistency.crl.p._298_2023