Libertatem Magazine

Supreme Court: State Cannot File One Charge-Sheet First and Supplementary Charge-Sheet Later To Extend the Time Limit

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Case Name: Fakhrey Alam vs. State of Uttar Pradesh [CrA 319 of 2021]

Facts of the case

In this case, an FIR was filed against the Appellant-accused under various sections of IPC, Section 3/25/30 of Arms Act and Section 18 of UAPA and was thereafter arrested on March 2017. In June 2017 the Learned Judicial Magistrate granted 180 days to file a charge-sheet to the police. The charge-sheet was filed by the police on September 2017 under the aforesaid provisions except under UAPA since it was appropriate to obtain prosecution approval from the state government, which had not been forthcoming until the charge sheet was filed. 

After obtaining the approval of the State Government, the second charge-sheet was filed on 5 October 2017. Before this, on 3 October 2017, the Appellant applied for default bail under Section 167(2) of CrPC contending that the charge-sheet was filed by the Appellant after the expiry of the period of 180 days and thus, he was entitled to default bail. On 13.10.2017, the Judicial Magistrate in its Order opined that the charge-sheet filed on 5 October 2017 was not a second charge-sheet but a supplementary charge-sheet and therefore, the default bail could not be granted. The Supreme Court was concerned with the same judgement, which was approved by the High Court in its impugned judgement on 3.11.2020.

Pleadings before the Court

It was submitted by the learned Counsel on behalf of the Appellant that the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Lucknow could not have provided 180 days for filing the charge sheet because only special courts have jurisdiction over offences under the UAPA Act, which were entrusted to NIA. It was further stated that the charge sheet/supplementary charge sheet under the UAPA Act was not filed within the 180 days, causing the applicant to apply for default bail on 03.10.2017, and it was only two days later, on 05.10.2017, that this charge sheet was filed after a delay of 211 days.

On the other hand, the learned Counsel on behalf of the Respondent submitted that in the given situation, this Court’s judgment in Bikramjit Singh’s case (supra) applied in the State of Punjab, but in the State of Uttar Pradesh, the competent Court was that of the special Chief Judicial Magistrate, and special Courts were only recently notified (about a month ago). It was further submitted that the second charge sheet was technically a supplementary charge sheet since there was no limit on the number of supplementary charge sheets that might be filed, but only one charge sheet will be filed.

Court’s observation

The bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and R Subhash Reddy observed that the State could not take advantage of the fact that in one case there was only one charge sheet and supplementary charge sheets were used to extend the time limit. In this manner by attempting to file the supplementary charge sheet qua the UAPA Act offences even beyond the period stated under Section 167 of the Cr. P.C beyond which default bail would be admissible, i.e. the period of 180 days. With that time passed and no charge sheet (albeit a supplementary charge sheet)  had been filed relating to those offences, the Court ruled that the Appellant was entitled to default bail under the above facts and circumstances.

It was further observed that since the consequences of the UAPA Act were serious, default bail was held to be more than a statutory right, but rather a part of the legal process defined by statute under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Since liberty is a fundamental right, the time in which the accused had the right to default bail was stated.

Court’s Judgement

The Supreme Court held that the appellant was entitled to default bail under Section 167(2) of CrPC and set aside the impugned Order(s). It also ruled that default bail under Section 167(2) of CrPC is not merely a statutory right but also a fundamental right. 

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