In an interesting judgment, a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and T.S.Thakur declined bail to Dr. Vinod Bhandari who is one of the key accused in the “VYAPAM Scam”. Pertinent to note that the the scam relates to a statutory body ie. M.P. Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal (M.P. Professional Examination Board) known as Vyapam which conducts various tests for admission to professional courses and streams. In 2013, an FIR was lodged in Bhopal alleging that copying was arranged in PMT Examination, 2012 at the instance of officers of Vyapam for admission in M.B.B.S Course in various colleges. The appellant is Managing Director of one of these colleges.
In toto, 516 people have been accused out of which 329 have been arrested. The Supreme Court last year ordered in Ajay Dubey v State of M.P that final Charge Sheet has to be submitted by the Special Task Force (STF) on or before 15/03/2015. The appellant is accused of receiving a few crore rupees in the scam from undeserving candidates to get admission to the M.B.B.S course. He has been under arrest since 30/01/2014 and supplementary challan has been filed against him. Apart from the present FIR, the appellant was charged in one more FIR in which he was granted anticipatory bail just before arrest in this case.
The bail application was rejected by the trial court observing that the case is not only an economic offence but also relates to human life and health. The Division Bench of High Court in the impugned order declined the bail holding that there is abundance of prima facie evidence against him. The main contention of the appellant before the bench penning through Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel was that he has been languishing in jail for over an year, charge sheet will be filed at around 15/03/2015 and trial will take a long time. As an undertrial prisoner his fundamental rights are being violated as he cannot be kept in custody like this for an indefinite period. It was pleaded that delay in trial is a very strong ground for grant of bail. The State however opposed the petition submitting that the charges against the appellant are huge and no bail can be granted in an offence of such high magnitude.
The court referred (read quoted paragraphs)to a catena of judgments, namely,
to examine the issue relating to grant of bail where such indefinite detention leads to violation of Article 21, various grounds on which bail can be granted, grounds for refusal of bail and delay in concluding trial as a ground for bail.
However, ironically, the judgment in Para 17 took a turn inking down that “In the light of above settled principles of law dealing with the bail pending trial.....Undoubtedly, the offence alleged against the appellant has adverse impact.....”. After copy pasting the above four judgments for grant of bail, the court instead of testing the settled propositions on the fact that the appellant has been in jail for over an year and is claiming bail as a right being an under trial prisoner preferred to rather deal only with the gravity of offence. The bench then declined to grant bail and considering seriousness of non initiation of trial for a long time 'expected' that trial will proceed on a day to day basis and its progress will be duly monitored by the High Court. The bench then requested the High Court to take up the matter once in 3 months. It was then observed that in case the trial is not completed within one year from the date of this judgment, the appellant can apply afresh for bail. On an in depth reading of the judgment, the court seems to have completely overlooked a plethora of judgments laying down that keeping in indefinite custody violates Fundamental Rights of the under trial prisoner. The bench also did not order a time bound trial.
Read the Judgment here.