The Gwalior Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has held that the State Government cannot take the defence of sovereign immunity in cases of violation of Fundamental Rights of it citizens.
Holding thus, the single bench of Justice GS Ahluwalia directed the state to pay compensation to a bail applicant, who had been languishing in jail for over a year, without any progress in trial which was completely attributable to the state Police.
Viewing this as violation of the Petitioner's fundamental right to Speedy Trial under Article 21 of the Constitution, the court observed,
"The State cannot seek sovereign immunity in cases of violation of fundamental rights. This Court is of the considered opinion, that it is a fit case, where the State can be saddled with the liability of making payment of compensation to the applicant, who has remained in jail for a period of one year i.e., from 26-3-2020 till 3-4-2020 without any progress in trial which is completely attributable to Inspector Inspector Rekhapal and Inspector Ram Naresh Yadav. Since, the fundamental right of the applicant of speedy trial has been grossly violated, therefore, the State is directed to make payment of Rs. 20,000/- by way of compensation to the applicant."
The compensation, payable within a period of 30 days, may be recovered from the salary of erring Inspector, the court directed.
So far as departmental proceedings against the erring police officers are concerned, the court said that it is the outlook of the police department and it want to indulge itself in the internal affairs of the police department.
However, it remarked that "if the police department is really interested in improving its working, then apart from issuing paper circulars from time to time, it must take effective steps in the matter."
In the facts of the case, the Petitioner was arrested for alleged commission of offences under Sections 8/20 of NDPS Act. He had approached the High Court in 8th regular bail application, alleging that only 1 witness had appeared in the case in the span of one year.
He submitted that the police witnesses did not appear inspite of the service of notices as well as bailable warrants. It is further submitted that on various occasions, even the summons or bailable warrants issued against Inspector Rekhapal and Inspector Ram Naresh Yadav were not returned back either served or unserved. Once, these officers were discharging their duties, then non-service of summons/bailable warrants on them is a serious lapse on the part of the prosecution, which clearly shows that the police witnesses are deliberately avoiding to appear before the Trial Court as a result of which the applicant is languishing in jail without any progress in trial, therefore, the applicant be granted bail.
Taking exception to such "unconcerned" attitude demonstrated by the police personnel, the court said,
"This conduct of the two prosecution witnesses i.e., Inspector Rekhapal and Inspector Ram Naresh Yadav is clearly indicative of the fact that they are not concerned about the life and liberty of an undertrial. It is also important to mention here, that on none of the occasion, any of these two witnesses, ever filed an application before the Trial Court seeking their exemption on any reasonable ground. Thus, not only these two witnesses were playing with the life and liberty of an undertrial, but they had taken the Trial Court for granted."
However, the court held that officers cannot be permitted to stay away from the Court, giving leeway to an accused to claim bail on the ground of delay in trial.
"The State functionaries cannot be permitted to create a situation which may result in grant of bail to the accused. It is the primary duty of the State to maintain law and order in the society by bringing the breakers of law to the Court. Therefore, their officers cannot be permitted to stay away from the Court for no good reason, so that an accused can claim bail on the ground of delay in trial. However, the breach of fundamental right of a citizen cannot be permitted and it can be compensated in terms of money," the court said while directing the state to compensate the applicant.
Thus hoping that the prosecution would examine all its remaining witnesses without any default immediately after resumption of normal courts functioning, the bench dismissed the bail plea.
Case Title: Jaipal Singh v. State of MP
Case No.: MCrC No. 10547/2020
Quorum: Justice GS Ahluwalia
Appearance: Advocate Brajesh Tyagi (for Applicant); Additional Advocate General MPS Raghuvanshi with Dy. Advocate General Rajesh Shukla (for State)
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