27 Aug 2022 7:45 AM GMT
"...under-trial prisoner's right to life does not diminish even a wee bit when in jail as an accused/convict for an offence and such person's health concerns have to be taken care by the State and if not done so, by the judiciary," the Manipur High Court recently observed as it released a POCSO Accused on bail on medical grounds.The bench of Justice M. V. Muralidaran further emphasized that...
"...under-trial prisoner's right to life does not diminish even a wee bit when in jail as an accused/convict for an offence and such person's health concerns have to be taken care by the State and if not done so, by the judiciary," the Manipur High Court recently observed as it released a POCSO Accused on bail on medical grounds.
The bench of Justice M. V. Muralidaran further emphasized that the right to dignity of an accused does not dry out with the Judges, rather, it subsists beyond the prison gates and operates until his last breath.
"The most precious fundamental 'right to life' unconditionally embraces even an under-trial...Every person who is accused of an offence requires a humane treatment by the prison authorities. Humane treatment to all including accused/convict is requirement of law. Furthermore a prisoner/convict who is suffering from an ailment has to be given due treatment and care while in prison."
With this, the bench suspended the sentence and released on bail, a POCSO Accused who is suffering from right kidney failure; calculi in the gall bladder, and spinal cord problem.
The case in brief
The accused was convicted in October 2018 by the Special Judge (POCSO), Imphal West under Section 6 of the POCSO Act, 2012, and was sentenced to undergo 20 years of rigorous imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs.30,000/-, in default to undergo 6 months simple imprisonment.
The petitioner/accused preferred a jail appeal. Along with the appeal, he also moved the instant petition seeking to suspend the sentence submitting that he is a patient who has been suffering from a failure of the right kidney, calculi on the gall bladder, spinal cord problem, and other serious bodily injuries and due to which, he is unable to freely sit, stand and sleep without waist belt because of his ailment on the spinal cord due to such bullet injuries.
Further, it was argued that if the petitioner is not released on bail pending the disposal of the appeal, his life will be shortened within a short duration due to becoming more serious than earlier of his failed right kidney. Thus, a prayer was made to grant bail in the pending appeal to save the life of the petitioner.
Lastly, it was also submitted that there are a lot of infirmities in the impugned judgment and that the petitioner has a good case on merits in succeeding the appeal.
At the outset, the Court noted that the grounds raised by the petitioner pointing out the infirmities in the impugned judgment cannot be gone into at this stage, as the same would involve arguments, coupled with the judicial pronouncements in that regard, therefore, the court restricted itself to the question as to whether the petitioner was entitled to be enlarged on bail by suspending the sentence on medical grounds pending appeal.
In this regard, the Court perused the medical reports of 2019 and observed that though the crime alleged against the petitioner is serious in nature and also an affront to the human dignity of the society, taking into consideration the health condition of the petitioner that failure of his right kidney and also becoming more serious of his gall bladder from calculi, in order to take better treatment outside the jail, this Court considered it appropriate to release the petitioner on bail mainly on medical grounds by suspending the sentence.
The Court also noted that the medical records available on record prima facie revealed failure of the right kidney, calculi in the gall bladder, and spinal cord problems. The Court also opined that though the medical records produced were of the year 2019, nothing had been produced by the prosecution to show improvement in the health of the petitioner.
The Court also noted that there was a failure on the part of the prosecution to produce any latest medical record pertaining to the petitioner to show that in jail proper treatments are given to the petitioner for nearly four years.
Furthermore, the Court also found that due to practical reasons also the appeal moved by the petitioner challenging his conviction could not be disposed of expeditiously.
In this regard, the Court referred to the Apex Court's ruling in the case of Bhagwan Rama Shinde Gosai and others v. State of Gujarat, (1999) 4 SCC 421 wherein it was held that when a convicted person is sentenced to a fixed period of sentence and the appellate Court finds that due to practical reasons the appeal cannot be disposed of expeditiously, it can pass appropriate orders for suspension of sentence.
"Where an appeal is preferred against conviction before the High Court, the High Court has ample power and discretion to suspend the sentence. That discretion has to be exercised judiciously depending upon the facts and circumstances of each case. While considering the suspension of sentence, each case has to be considered on the basis of the nature of the offence, the manner in which the occurrence had taken place, whether bail granted earlier had been misused. There was no straitjacket formula which could be applied in exercising discretion and the facts and circumstances of each case would govern the exercise of judicious discretion while considering an application filed by a convict under Section 389 Cr.P.C," the Court further remarked.
Consequently, considering the totality of the facts and circumstances and for the reasons mentioned above, on health grounds, the Court suspended the sentence of the petitioner and released him on bail.
Case title - Sandam Bhogen Meetei v. State of Manipur
Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Man) 9
Click Here To Read/Download Order