The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday denied default bail to an accused who, after two weeks in custody, was enlarged on interim bail on account of the COVID pandemic, which was extended from time-to-time, and is now finally required to surrender on September 4.
Justice H. S. Madaan was considering a revision petition against the order of the Additional Sessions Judge, refusing statutory bail under section 167(2) Cr. P.C.
"The petitioner remaining behind bars for a period of less than two weeks till date cannot cry foul and ask for bail in terms of Section 167(2) Cr.P.C", remarked the Single Bench. Commenting that the petitioner "just wants to have dual benefit" enjoying interim bail, and at the same time, asking for concession of bail under Section 167(2) Cr.P.C., Justice Madaan ruled that he is "certainly not entitled to such concession".
The Single Judge recorded that the petitioner was arrested on 19.3.2020 in a corruption case. On account of outbreak of Corona Pandemic, in view of the directions issued by the Apex Court in Suo Motu Writ Petition No.1/2020 – In RE: CONTAGION OF COVID-19 VIRUS IN PRISONS and as per the policy dated 24.3.2020 of the High Powered Committee, vide order dated 31.3.2020 the petitioner was released on interim bail for a period of 45 days. Such period expired on 14.5.2020. In view of subsequent direction dated 5.5.2020 by the Committee, interim bail was further extended for six weeks up to 25.6.2020 and then for 10 weeks w.e.f. 25.6.2020. The petitioner is required to surrender at District Jail on 4.9.2020.
"Section 167(2) Cr.P.C. is meant to ensure that the investigation in the case is concluded promptly and challan is filed in the Court thereafter at the earliest so that an accused in a criminal case is not made to languish in the jail for a very long time", observed Justice Madaan.
The bench expounded that the provision is meant to ensure that the investigating agency "does not show callousness and lethargy in doing the investigation", making them aware of the fact that in case investigation is not completed and challan is not filed within 90 days of arrest of the accused, where the investigation relates to an offence punishable with death imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term of not less than 10 years and within a period of 60 days, where the
investigation relates to any other offence, then "the accused would become entitled to be released on bail and then the Investigating Officer at fault would be made to explain his acts and omissions in carrying out the investigation" within that time frame.
"The law is well settled that the revisional jurisdiction of this Court is quite limited. This Court is to interfere only if there is an illegality or infirmity apparent on the face of the judgment/order passed by a Court below or the same is perverse and not otherwise", iterated the Single Bench, adding that there is no such illegality or infirmity with the impugned order, much less apparent on the face of it.
Justice Madaan asserted that the impugned order of the ASJ is "certainly not in violation of settled principles of criminal jurisprudence".
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