The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the order passed by a single bench of Rajasthan High Court which directed the HC Registry to not list applications for bail and sentence suspension as urgent matters during the period of lockdown.
A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta stayed the order in an appeal filed by the Rajasthan High Court itself.
The impugned direction was passed by Justice Pankaj Bhandari, who observed that such matters cannot be considered to be of extreme urgency.
One of the reasons cited in the order was that matters regarding grant of bail, suspension of sentence etc, would necessarily involve further acts burdening public officials and advocates, such as production of the order before the concerned jail, execution of bail bonds, arrangement of sureties etc.
"If the direction is to be adhered to than the Court is to either allow or adjourn the matter. If the bail application/appeal under ST/ST is allowed, the order is to be sent to the court below, sureties have to appear before the court below and advocates presence is required to identify the sureties. Release order has to be sent to the jail with the court staff.
If application for suspension of sentence is allowed the order is to be produced before the Trial Court which has passed the sentence. Presently in each District limited number of Courts for limited time are functional to deal with exceptional urgent matters, in that situation for attesting the bail bonds staff of the concerned Trial Court is to be requisitioned for tracing out the file as surety bonds have to be furnished in the concerned Court file", Justice Bhandari had observed
Therefore, the HC had observed that the "release of one accused or convict shall risk the life of many and would adversely affect the measures taken by the State for complete lockdown".
The Court also observed :
"In Criminal Appeals under the SC/ST Act pertaining to bails effecting service on the complainant before passing any order in favour of the accused is the mandate of the SC/ST Act.
In the present lockdown condition even sending notice through Police personnel may pose risk of spreading of COVID-19 as even Police personnels have been quarantined. Further there is complete closure of public transport hence it can not and should not be expected from the Police Personnel that they would leave the emergent task given under "the Act" to effect service on the complainant and travel hundreds of kilometers in their private vehicles to produce the case diaries thereby posing threat of COVID-19 to community at large and themselves."
The order was passed in a second bail application filed by a convict.
Justice Bhandari also noted that the Rajasthan High Court has Holi, Dashera, Diwali and Winter vacations ranging from few days to few weeks during which period also Bail applications and applications for suspension of sentence are not taken up by the Court.
The Court also considered the report of DG Prisons that there was no overcrowding in the jails in the State.
"Release of an accused or convict at the cost of breaching the order of lockdown and at the cost of risking lives of many cannot be considered to fall within the category of "extreme urgent matter", Justice Bhandari observed.
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