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Breaking: At least Half Of HC Judges Should Sit On Alternative Days To Hear Persons In Distress, Non-Listing Of Bail Application Impinges On Liberty Of Accused: SC

Mehal Jain
16 Jun 2021 11:58 AM GMT
Breaking: At least Half Of HC Judges Should Sit On Alternative Days To Hear Persons In Distress, Non-Listing Of Bail Application Impinges On Liberty Of Accused: SC
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"Under the prevailing pandemic, at least half of the judges should sit on alternative days so that hearing is accorded to the person in distress".

Seeing that a bail application filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court has not been listed for hearing for more than 1 year, the Supreme Court has observed that under the prevailing pandemic, at least half of the judges should sit on alternative days so that hearing is accorded to the person in distress. "Non-listing of application for regular bail, irrespective of seriousness or...

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Seeing that a bail application filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court has not been listed for hearing for more than 1 year, the Supreme Court has observed that under the prevailing pandemic, at least half of the judges should sit on alternative days so that hearing is accorded to the person in distress. 

"Non-listing of application for regular bail, irrespective of seriousness or lack thereof, of the offences attributed to the accused, impinges upon the liberty of the person in custody", said the top court.

The vacation bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian was considering an SLP against an April order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court whereby the request for hearing of an application for bail under Section 439 of the CrPC, pending since February 28, 2020, was declined.

"I am aware of the situation of the Punjab and Haryana High Court", Justice Gupta (previously a judge of the said High Court) told the senior advocate appearing for the petitioner.

The bench of Justices Gupta and Ramasubramanian noted that though, "normally, (the Court does) not interfere with an interim order passed by the High Court", but in the instant case, it is "constrained to pass the present order" as the Court is "shocked to see that the bail application under Section 439 CrPC is not being listed for hearing for more than one year".

"The accused has a right to hearing of his application for bail. In fact, the denial of hearing is an infringement of right and liberty assured to an accused", said the bench.

It proceeded to state that "even during the pandemic, when all Courts are making attempts to hear and decide all matter, non-listing of such an application for bail defeats the administration of justice".

"Under the prevailing pandemic, at least half of the judges should sit on alternative days so that hearing is accorded to the person in distress. Non-listing of application for regular bail, irrespective of seriousness or lack thereof, of the offences attributed to the accused, impinges upon the liberty of the person in custody", said the bench.

Therefore, the bench expressed "hope" that the "High Court will be able to take up the application for bail at an early date so that the right of the accused of hearing of application for bail is not taken away by not entertaining such application on the mentioning memo".

The bench required the Registrar General of the High Court to bring this Order to the notice of the competent authority to take remedial steps at the earliest.

The SLP petitioner, Chunni Lal Gaba, is a former president of a municipal council in Punjab and an accused in a multi-crore synthetic drug racket. In addition to being chargesheeted under the NDPS Act, the ED has chargesheeted Gaba and nine members of his family associated with his 11 firms in connection with the infamous 'Bhola drug case' for the alleged violation of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Gaba was granted interim bail on March 28, 2020 which was further extended till June 20, 2020 and finally till July 3, 2020. The ED had moved the High Court contending that the Department was not heard at the time of granting interim bail at the initial stage and thereafter. On July 2, 2020, the High Court directed the trial court to afford full opportunity to the Department to oppose the extension of interim bail, taking into consideration the gravity of the offence. "We also make it clear that while hearing the matter, learned trial court shall take into consideration the clarificatory order dated 13.04.2020 passed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court as well as Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. We also make it clear that bail in cases involving heinous crimes, like the offences under the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, the Protection of 2 of 3 Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, may not be granted as a matter of right", the High Court had said. Subsequently, on July 4, 2020, the CBI court, which is also a designated ED court, had cancelled Gaba's interim bail and sent him to judicial custody.

Click here to download the Order

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