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Right To Apply For Bail Is An Individual Right Implicit In Articles 14, 19 & 21 : Supreme Court

Srishti Ojha
30 Sep 2021 4:04 PM GMT
Right To Apply For Bail Is An Individual Right Implicit In Articles 14, 19 & 21 : Supreme Court
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Disapproving the blanket orders passed by a single judge of the Rajasthan High Court to not list applications for bail and suspension of sentence as urgent matters during the lockdown, the Supreme Court has observed that the right to apply for bail is an individual right implicit in Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.The Court has observed that such blanket bans would suspend...

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Disapproving the blanket orders passed by a single judge of the Rajasthan High Court to not list applications for bail and suspension of sentence as urgent matters during the lockdown, the Supreme Court has observed that the right to apply for bail is an individual right implicit in Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

The Court has observed that such blanket bans would suspend Fundamental Rights of individuals and block access for seekers of liberty to apply for bail.

A Bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose made the observations while delivering the judgement in special leave petitions filed against orders of the Rajasthan High Court which directed the Registry to not to list bails, appeals, applications for suspension of sentence in appeals and revisions in the category of extreme urgent matters.

Also under challenge was a direction issued by the single bench this year to the Registry to not list applications seeking anticipatory bail in offences where maximum sentence extends upto three years during the summer vacation of the Court.

These orders were challenged before the Supreme Court by the Rajasthan High Court itself.

"Such an order also has the effect of temporarily eclipsing statutory provisions" the Supreme Court said.

While noting that the blanket order was passed by the High Court without compliance of procedure established by law, the Bench has observed that blanket order prohibiting listing of bail application or applications for suspension of sentence in appeals also infringes upon the right of personal liberty of incarcerated persons.

"Such right has been taken away by judicial order, without compliance of procedure established by law, which in our constitutional jurisprudence, is akin to "the due process" dictum." the Bench said.

"Right to apply for bail is an individual right implicit in Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution", the judgment authored by Justice Bose stated.

The Court also observed that the right of an accused, an undertrial prisoner or a convicted person awaiting appeal court's verdict to seek bail on suspension of sentence is recognised in Sections 439, 438 and 389 of the 1973 Criminal Procedure Code.

The Bench also found it improper for the Single Judge to come to a general finding that when there is complete lockdown the bail applications, appeal under SC/ST Act and applications for suspension of sentence in appeals and revisions could not be considered to be matters of extreme urgency.

"Such sweeping orders in our adversarial adjudicatory system would be contrary to law as many persons would be impacted by such orders without having any knowledge of the proceeding." the Bench said.

While delivering its verdict, the Bench expressed disapproval of both the directions of restrictions on arrest and listing of bail applications issued by a single bench of the High Court.

"The directions issued had the potential for breaching the constitutional and legal rights of individuals who could be or are arraigned in criminal action and also put fetters on power of investigating agencies." the Bench recorded.

The impugned orders were issued in applications for anticipatory bails when the Covid-19 pandemic was raging across this country. However the bail pleas were ultimately rejected by the High Court later.

Observing that the impact of the orders under appeal no more survives, the Bench refrained from formally setting aside the orders while allowing the Rajasthan High Court's appeal.

There were two Special Leave Petitions before the Supreme Court - SLP(Crl) No.5618/2020 and SLP(Crl) No.3949/2021. The first one challenged the order passed by a single bench of High Court on March 30 last year directing the Registry to not list applications for bail and sentence suspension as urgent matters during the period of lockdown. The second SLP challenged the order passed by the single bench on May 17 this year, in which the restraint order against police regarding arrests in cases with less than 3 years imprisonment as punishment and the direction to not list anticipatory bail applications in cases with less than 3 years imprisonment as punishment were passed. Incidentally, both the impugned orders were passed by a bench of Justice Pankaj Bhandari.

The Supreme Court had earlier stayed the operation of both the orders. The order passed on March 30, 2020 was stayed by the Supreme Court on April 3, 2020. The order passed on May 17, 2021, was stayed by a vacation bench of the Supreme Court on May 25, 2021.

 Case Title : High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan versus The State of Rajasthan and Another, SLP(Crl) No.5618/2020 and SLP(Crl) No.3949/2021.


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