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Prosecutor view must for bail: SC

New Delhi, Jan. 1: Courts should not grant bail in serious offences without considering the opinion of the public prosecutor, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The apex court observed that granting such relief to influential individuals had a serious impact on society and upheld the cancellation of bail to a former NCP minister charged in a housing scam that hit a Maharashtra civic body.

Since Section 439 (1) of the CrPC mandates that the views of the public prosecutor must be taken into consideration while granting bail in serious offences, a duty is cast upon courts to observe the rule to prevent the accused from influencing or intimidating witnesses and derailing the probe, the court said. Offences under this section are punishable with up to a life term.

“The nature and seriousness of an economic offence and its impact on society are important considerations in such a case, and they must squarely be dealt with by the court while passing an order on bail applications,” a bench of Justices H.L. Gokhale and J. Chelameswar said.

Bombay High Court had cancelled Gulabrao Baburao Deokar’s bail on the ground that the sessions judge had granted it without giving the public prosecutor a chance to record his views. But three other accused in the Rs 169-crore Jalgaon municipality housing scam dating back to 1997 had been denied the relief.

Deokar’s bail in 2012 was granted despite objections from police who said he was influential and would interfere with the investigations.

The apex court, ruling on Deokar’s appeal, not only upheld the bail’s cancellation but also transferred the trial from Jalgaon to neighbouring Dhule on the state government’s request.

The bench said the case records showed Deokar had appeared before the additional sessions judge for bail on May 21, 2012, and the relief was granted the same day despite the fact that the public prosecutor sought two days to file objections.

The prosecutor was also not given any formal notice by the judge. “The notice (mandated) under Section 439 (1) of the CrPC implies a proper and full opportunity to the prosecutor to point out as to why bail should not be granted,” the apex court said.

The bench also pointed to the voluminous chargesheet. “The initial chargesheet in the case was running into more than 268 pages. The sessions judge ought to have granted adequate time to the prosecutor to reply on the basis of this chargesheet. The order of bail does not reflect upon the contents of the chargesheet,” Justice Gokhale, writing the judgment, said.

The bench acknowledged the importance of personal liberties but explained that this must be balanced with the seriousness of the offence. “The liberty of a citizen, even if he is an accused, is undoubtedly important but at the same time when the prosecutor had pointed out that the role of the appellant was no less than that of the three others whose bail had been rejected, the judge ought to have considered these circumstances justifying custodial interrogation.”