Supreme Court: Extension of Lockdown Will Not Affect Right to Default Bail

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A bench comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan, M R Shah and V Ramasubramaniam presided over the matter. They set aside the judgement passed by the Madras HC in the case S. Kasi vs State through Inspector of Police. The Court clarified the enactment of S.167 CrPC, in the present case.

Brief Facts of the Case

Every individual has a right to personal liberty. If liberty gets curtailed due to the justice system, he is entitled to demand that justice. In the present case, the petitioner was charged under S. 457, 380, 457(2), 380(2), 411(2) and 414(2) of Indian Penal Code. He got arrested on 21.02.2020 in the above case and lodged in Central Prison, Trichy. The bail application of the appellant under Section 439 got rejected by the trial court on 30.04.2020. After being in judicial custody for more than 73 days, the appellant applied for the HC of Madras. He prayed for grant of bail on account of the passage of such 73 days and non-filing of the charge sheet. The appellant contended that he was entitled to bail by default as prescribed under S.167 (2).

The Single Bench Judge of the Madras HC referred to a Suo Moto Writ Petition of 23.03.2020 passed by the Supreme Court. Further, the Judge granted an extension to the authorities to file the charge sheet. Aggrieved by the decision of the Court, the appellant has approached this Court.

Arguments before the Court

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Learned Senior Counsel Shri Siddharth Luthra appeared on behalf of the appellant. He contended that the High Court committed error in taking the view that this Court’s order dated 23.03.2020. He further stated that the provisions u/s 167(2) Cr.P.C. are provisions for the protection of personal liberty. In the event of charge sheet not getting filed by the Police within the stipulated period, the appellant gets entitled to default bail.

He contended that learned Single Judge in the impugned judgment had also erred in taking a contrary view to an earlier judgment delivered by another learned Single Judge in Settu v. The State.

Shri Jayanth Muthuraj learned counsel appearing on behalf of the State submitted those enormous difficulties arose while carrying out the investigation. Moreover, the charge sheet could not be filed in the present case. He states that the appellant is not entitled to take benefit of Section 167(2) in the wake of the Covid-19.

Court’s Observation

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The Court considered the purpose of enactment of section 167(2) before giving any decision. After tracing the legislative history of S.167, the Court observed that:

1) S. 167(2) is in consonance with the constitutional mandate engrafted under A. 22(2) of the Constitution.

2) S. 167 is supplementary to Section 57, in consonance with the principle that the accused is entitled to demand that justice is not delayed.

3) S. 167 should get looked from the angle of personal liberty.

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4) Without submission of charge sheet within 60 or 90 days, as may be applicable, an accused cannot be detained by the Police.

Further, the Court has observed that the order passed by the HC was to protect the lawyers who seek the remedy. But “The law of limitation bars the remedy but not the right”, the Court said.

“The right of the prosecution to carry on investigation and submit a charge sheet is not akin to the right of liberty of a person enshrined under Article 21 and reflected in other statutes including Section 167, Cr.P.C.”

Thus, the Court observed that the State had no right to deprive a person of his life or liberty without the authority of law.

Moreover, the learned Single Judge in the impugned judgment had not only breached the judicial discipline but has also referred to an observation made by learned Single Judge in Settu v. The State as uncharitable.

Court’s Order

The Court is in view that this Court, in its order dated 23.03.2020 cannot be held to have eclipsed the time prescribed u/s 167(2). Also, the restrictions which got imposed during the lockdown, announced by the Govt. must not operate as any restriction on the rights of an accused as protected by Section 167(2). That is about his indefeasible Right to get a default bail on non-submission of charge sheet within the time prescribed.

The Court set aside the High Court judgement and granted bail. Also demanded the appellant to furnish a bail bond of Rs. 10,000/- two sureties to the satisfaction of the trial court.


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