While hearing a matter placed before it the Madras High Court held that a Prisoner's Transit Warrant can never be converted into a regular warrant where the accused is out on bail and that it thereby does not authorise the Court to remand the accused on the strength of a regular warrant.
The instant case arose in the form of a criminal original petition filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to call for the records of a particular order of the First Additional Sessions Judge, Salem cancelling the bail of the petitioner and to set aside the same.
The petitioner was charged under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code along with 23 others and was subsequently granted bail by the Madras High Court upon imposing certain conditions. Subsequently, he was arrested in another case registered at Orissa and was transferred to Orissa on the strength of a PT warrant, where he was subsequently acquitted.
Failing to appear before the Salem Court, a non-bailable warrant was issued against the petitioner which remained unexecuted till 2016. It was only when he was arrested in another case that he was brought before the court on the strength of a PT warrant.
The petitioner's case was earlier split up from the cases of other co accused, but, even when the petitioner was produced before the Court on PT warrant from 2016 onwards, his case was not merged with the main case, which went on separately.
Also, the First Additional Sessions Judge, Salem initiated suo moto proceedings for cancelling the bail of the petitioner and cancelled the bail which was granted by the order of the Madras High Court.
The High Court therefore, in this case, had to consider three main issues.
(a)When an accused person is on bail and he fails to appear before the trial Court resulting in a non-bailable warrant being issued against him and the accused gets arrested in another case and he is produced before the trial Court through the Prisoner's Transit (PT) warrant, in execution of the non-bailable warrant, whether the PT warrant can be converted into a regular warrant and the accused person can be remanded to custody?
(b)Whether the bail granted by the High Court can be cancelled by a subordinate court on the ground of violation of bail conditions?
(c)When the accused person is produced before the Court through a PT warrant and at that point of time the trial is going on for a co-accused, if it is appropriate for the trial Court to have not merged the split up case of the petitioner along with the main case and make the petitioner also face trial along with the co-accused, And if, by not adopting this procedure, the petitioner has been put to prejudice and thereby the proceedings against him stands vitiated?
The Court, referring to a number of cases regarding the scope of PT warrant concluded that the purpose of a PT warrant is very limited to the extent of directing the production of a person who is confined or detained in prison by a lawful order and its scope cannot be enlarged by assuming the same to be an authorization for detaining the prisoner beyond the period of detention. It cannot be equated or construed to be an order of remand and a person who has been granted bail cannot be further detained on the ground that a PT warrant has been issued by another court. Regarding the first issue, the Court held that a PT warrant can never be converted into a regular warrant in a case where the accused person is already on bail and thereby it does not authorize the Court to remand the accused on a strength of a regular warrant.
As regards the second issue the Court held that a subordinate court may cancel a bail granted by a higher court only if there is a stipulation in that regard in the bail order of the higher court. Since in the instant case there was no such stipulation, the Court was wrong in cancelling the bail bond.
With regards to the third issue the Court mentioned:
"Without any hesitation, the answer should be "Yes". The petitioner was available before the Court and the trial was under process and there was no reason why the petitioner's case should not have been merged with the main case. This would have saved the time and energy of the Court and by now the petitioner would have known the result of the case."
However, with regard to the issue that if the proceeding against the petitioner stands vitiated because of this reason, the Court answered in negative. It held that the non-merger of cases did not in itself cause any prejudice to the petitioner and that the wrong procedure adopted by the Court cannot be taken advantage of. The Court directed the trial court to proceed further with the split-up case in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Court in Harun Basha v. The State represented by the Inspector of Police, E-5 Cholavaram Police Station, Thiruvallur District 2019 1 LW Crl 15.
Setting aside the impugned order, the petition was allowed with the following directions:
"a) the petitioner is directed to be produced before the Court below and the petitioner shall execute a fresh bail bond for a sum of Rs.10,000/- along with two sureties for a like sum, out of which one surety shall be a blood relative.
b) The petitioner shall appear before the 1st Additional Sessions Judge, Salem daily at 10.30 a.m. until the completion of the proceedings in SC.No.217 of 2019. This condition shall not be relaxed till the completion of the proceedings.
c) the petitioner shall not tamper with evidence or witness during trial.
d) the petitioners shall not abscond during trial.
e) on breach of any of the aforesaid conditions, the Trial Court is entitled to take appropriate action against the petitioner in accordance with law as if the conditions have been imposed and the petitioner released on bail by the Trial Court itself as laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in P.K. Shaji Vs. State of Kerala [(2005) AIR SC W5560] ;
f) if the petitioner thereafter absconds, a fresh FIR can be registered under Section 229-A IPC.
g) The Trial Court shall proceed further with the trial on a day-to-day basis in accordance with the guidelines given in Vinod Kumar Vs. State of Punjab reported in 2015 (1) MLJ (Crl) 288 SC.
h) If the petitioner adopts any dilatory tactics, it is open to the trial Court to remand the petitioner to custody as laid down by the judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in State of Uttar Pradesh vs. Shambhu Nath Singh (JT 2001 (4) SC 319).
i) The Trial Court shall complete the proceedings in S.C.No.217 of 81
2009 within a period of three months from the date of receipt of copy of this order."
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