The Delhi High Court has called for the use of tracking systems such as GPS tracking system to monitor the movement of accused who have been released on bail.
A single bench of Justice Asha Menon made such an observation while dismissing the petition filed by Delhi Government challenging the order granting bail to Sanjeev Kumar Chawla, a bookie accused in the match fixing scandal of 2000.
The judge observed that the case "brought to the fore the need for investigative agencies and the Government to consider the use of advances in technology to track under-trials in cases of this nature where the State may fear that an accused may flee from trial".
"Digital and electronic equipment, as presently used in America, ought to be introduced in India, so that a tracking system similar to the GPS Tracking System, can be used to monitor the movement of the accused released on bail, allowing the authorities to gather information all the time while permitting the accused to undertake the usual and ordinary activities of normal life", observed Justice Asha Menon in the order.
In the instant case, while granting bail to Chawla, the Additional Sessions Judge, Patiala House Courts, directed him to keep his mobile phone operational at all times and directed him to make a call to the Investigating Officer/Station House Officer once a day. Chawla's brother, and the two sureties were also directed to furnish the details of their mobile phones to the IO/SHO and to keep their mobile phones operational at all times.
In the absence of technological monitoring systems in India, the ASJ adopted the "next best course available", observed the HC.
Justice Asha Menon, who had reserved judgment on the petition earlier this month, pronounced orders via video conferencing on Wednesday.
Sanjeev Chawla, a British National, was extradited to India from United Kingdom in February 2020.
He was granted bail by the trial court in New Delhi on April 30 on furnishing of a personal bond of ₹2 lakh and two sureties of the like amount. The trial court, while granting bail to chawla, said the accused was in custody for the last 76 days and the probe was already complete in the case.
While upholding the trial court's bail order, the HC noted that no charge has been framed with respect to the other accused in the crime, even though FIR was registered in 2000. The other three accused persons have been on bail since the year 2000 and 20 years later, they continue to remain on bail with no trial in sight.
"The trial scenario being so stark, liberty of a person cannot be left in limbo only on account of the belief of the State that the respondent/accused is a flight risk", the Court observed.
The Court also noted there has been no occasion to assess the tendency of the accused to breach bail conditions, as the State rushed to the HC immediately after grant of bail.
"The State has come before this Court for seeking cancellation of bail immediately upon the grant of bail and, therefore, there has been no occasion for a disclosure through action or words, that the respondent/accused has/intends to thwart the process of justice or prevent fair trial. Liberty being precious to human life, bail once granted ought not to be lightly cancelled. The existence of supervening circumstances or other circumstances as listed hereinabove in their absence, must be strictly ascertained by the court before it cancels the bail already granted. The present case is not one such case where these circumstances exist as discussed above. The State has not succeeded in making out a case for cancellation of bail of the respondent/accused", the Court observed, while dismissing the petition.
The HC added that the trial court had rightly applied the COVID-19 guidelines regarding the de-congestion of prisons, and the accused was also entitled to such benefit.
The police, represented by ASG Sanjay Jain and additional public prosecutor Kewal Singh Ahuja, sought cancellation of his bail on the ground that Chawla is a British national and it took 20 years to bring him back to India and there is likelihood of the his fleeing from justice.
Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, appearing for Chawla, opposed the police's plea saying his client never applied for bail in 60 days which showed he was cooperating with the prosecuting agency.
He said the trial was pending for seven years, the charges have not been framed and it will take considerable time to complete the trial.
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