Delhi High Court has refused to quash the Minutes of Meeting held on March 28 by the High Powered Committee constituted to decongest the prisons whereby undertrial prisoners accused of economic offences or against whom enquiry is being conducted by the Enforcement Directorate have been excluded from the purview of interim bail.
The Single Bench of Justice Anu Malhotra went on to note that such undertrial prisoners, however, have the liberty to move court seeking bail under the relevant provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The order has come in a criminal writ petition moved by Religare Finvest scam accused Malvinder Mohan Singh, seeking quashing of the High Powered Committee's Minutes of Meeting dated 28/03/20 on the ground that they arbitrarily and unreasonably discriminate against the undertrial prisoners accused of economic offences.
While contending the quashing of the said Minutes of Meeting, Malvinder Singh also sought release either on bail or parole.
The High Powered Committee in its Minutes of Meeting had observed that the decision to exclude a certain category of undertrials from the relief of claiming interim bail as a matter of right was taken only after considering the relevant factors and on the basis of objective satisfaction arrived at by the Committee and that the criteria was adopted taking into consideration class/category of offences in mind and not having prisoner-centric approach.
The Committee had further noted that the object was only to release some of the prisoners and not all the prisoners on a reasonable classification arrived at on the basis of the orders passed by the Supreme Court.
It was also mentioned in the said Minutes that the Committee was not formed to look into merits or demerits of an individual case for being released on interim bail and rather it was formed to lay down a criteria taking into consideration a particular class and not any particular prisoner or inmate and that the Committee thus, was of the opinion that the representation filed by Malvinder singh was unmerited and the same was accordingly rejected.
While holding that the decision of the High Powered Committee to exclude the undertrial prisoners accused of economic offences from the categories of prisoners eligible to seek interim bail as matter of right during the pandemic is not arbitrary, the court highlighted that:
'It is essential to observe that economic offences are offences which corrode the fabric of democracy and are committed with total disregard to the rights and interest of the nation and are committed by breach of trust and faith and are against the national economy and national interest.'
The court observed that the High Powered Committee did provide an intelligible differentia while distinguishing economic offences and terror offences from the other classes of offences on the basis of mens rea involved therein.
While rejecting the plea, the court did highlight that the Petitioner and other undertrial prisoners accused of economic offences are not precluded from availing the benefit of bail by moving the concerned court under the relevant provisions of the CrPC.
Click Here To Download Order