The Rajasthan High Court on Friday rejected the contention that till the lockdown continues, the period prescribed in Section 167(2) Cr. P. C. stands automatically extended in view of the March 23 order of the Supreme Court, as it has the effect of binding law by virtue of Article 141/142.
On March 23, the Apex Court had directed that the period of limitation in all proceedings, irrespective of the limitation prescribed under the general law or Special Laws, whether condonable or not, shall stand extended.
"Hon'ble the Supreme Court has extended the period of limitation for filing petition, appeal, revision etc. - and no such advantage of extension of period has been given to any investigating agency or statutory body", observed the High Court. The prosecution had sought to counter the petitioner's right to be released on default bail on account of their failure to file the final report, giving an excuse that the charge-sheet could not be filed in the wake of lock down.
"Consequent to lock down, the work of investigating authority and police was not stalled. Nor it is the case of the State/Prosecution that the Board or competent Court having jurisdiction were not functioning to accept/admit charge-sheet, when sought to be filed", said the Single Judge.
"Having regard to the background in which the Hon'ble Supreme Court has passed the subject order dated 23.3.2020 and in light of what has been recorded therein, it is clear that the same was passed with a view to give relief to the litigants and lawyers", noted the Court.
"In absence of any clear stipulation in the above referred order of Hon'ble Supreme Court, in my considered opinion, the investigating or prosecuting agency cannot claim self-serving extension, under the pretence or cloak of such order. If that be permitted, statutory period of completing assessments etc. in all statutes such as Income Tax Act, GST Act etc. will stand automatically extended, which, in absence of express statutory amendments is impermissible", further held the Single Judge.
The bench noted that the government has come out with the taxation and other laws (Relaxation of Certain Provision) Ordinance, 2020. By virtue of the provisions contained in this Ordinance, the limitation or outer limit for compliance or actions/orders under various enactments has been extended.
"Concededly, no amendment has been introduced in the Code, particularly in Section 167(2)", reads the judgment.
Accordingly, the Single Bench opined that in absence of any amendment in the statute and without there being any remote reference of investigation or provisions of the Code in the order of Supreme Court, taking shield of the
Supreme Court's order to take away the vested right of an accused, is nothing short of violating his right of liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
In arriving at this conclusion, the Court relied on the views taken by the Maraud High Court in an order of May 8, the Kerala High Court and the Uttarakhand
"As the felony for which the petitioner is to be tried, prescribes less than 10 years' sentence, the investigating officer was required to file final report or charge-sheet within 60 days, i.e., latest by 30th March, 2020. The same has not been filed even till today", expressed the Court, upholding the petitioner's right to be released on bail, by offering requisite bail bonds.
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