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regular-article-logo Saturday, 20 April 2024

Article 21 soul of Constitution, liberty of citizen paramount, says Supreme Court

Addressing delays in bail decisions, the Supreme Court requests Bombay High Court judges to prioritize matters related to the liberty of citizens, safeguarding the essence of Article 21

PTI New Delhi Published 02.03.24, 02:51 PM
Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court of India File photo

The Supreme Court has said that Article 21 is the soul of the Constitution as the liberty of a citizen is of paramount importance and the high court not expeditiously adjudicating matters related to it would deprive a person of this precious right.

A bench of Justice B R Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta made the observation after noting that the Bombay High Court has granted bail to one Amol Vithal Vahile, a prime accused in the murder of a corporator in Maharashtra, after a nudge from the apex court on January 29.

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The bench, in its recent order, said it is thus clear that before the order was passed by this court on January 29, 2024, the high court instead of deciding the application for bail on merits shunted it on one or the other ground.

"Needless to state that Article 21 of the Constitution of India is the soul of the Constitution as the liberty of a citizen is of paramount importance. Not deciding the matter pertaining to liberty of a citizen expeditiously and shunting away the matter on one or the other ground would deprive the party of their precious right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India," it said.

The bench said that it has come across various matters from the Bombay High Court where the bail and anticipatory bail applications were not being decided expeditiously.

Referring to one such case, the bench said in the matter the application for anticipatory bail was not decided for more than four years.

"We have also come across numerous matters wherein the judges are not deciding the matter on merits but find an excuse to shunt the case on different grounds. We, therefore, request the chief justice of the High Court of Bombay to convey our request to all judges exercising the criminal jurisdiction to decide the matter pertaining to bail/anticipatory bail as expeditiously as possible," the bench said.

It asked the Registrar (Judicial) of the apex court to communicate this order to the Registrar (Judicial) of the high court, who shall place the same before the chief justice of the Bombay High Court.

On January 29, the bench noted that on March 30, 2023, the high court had asked Vahile to approach the trial court for regular bail even though it had noted that he was languishing in jail for more than seven years.

The top court had said, "When the petitioner applied for bail on merits and also on the ground that he had been incarcerated in jail for seven and a half years, the approach of the high court in only permitting him to file an application for bail before the trial court/sessions court and not deciding the prayer for bail on merits, in our view, would amount to non-exercise of jurisdiction vested in it." The bench had said Vahile had been languishing in prison for seven and a half years at the time on which the order was passed by the single judge and by now he has suffered custody of more than eight years. The high court rather than asking the petitioner to take another round of litigation ought to have decided the matter on merits, it had said.

The top court had said that the approach of the high court was not in accordance with the sanctity that has been given to personal liberty in the catena of judgments.

It had then asked the high court to decide Vahile's bail afresh in view of the fact that he had served around eight years in jail.

Vahile is a prime accused in the murder of one Avinash Tekawade, a corporator of Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation in Maharashtra.

Police had claimed that Vahile had harboured a grudge against Tekawade due to professional rivalry and committed the murder along with others on September 3, 2015. He was arrested on September 4.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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