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Lakhimpur Kheri case: No accused can be subjected to unending detention, states SC

Apex court deals with apprehension of accused, son of Union minister Ajay Mishra, that his right to get bail would now stand foreclosed if it is cancelled by top court
Union Minister Ajay Mishra (L) with his son Ashish (behind him)
Union Minister Ajay Mishra (L) with his son Ashish (behind him)
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Our Bureau, PTI   |   New Delhi   |   Published 18.04.22, 08:48 PM

The Supreme Court, while cancelling the bail of Ashish Mishra in the Lakhimpur Kheri case, Monday provided a glimmer of hope to him, saying no accused can be subjected to unending detention and stringent penal provisions cannot be measured over and above the fundamental right of liberty.

Allaying the apprehension of the accused, the apex court, which directed him to surrender back to jail in a week, asked the Allahabad High Court to decide the bail plea afresh within three months.

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A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana, in its verdict, dealt with the apprehension of the accused, son of Union minister Ajay Mishra, that his right to get bail would now stand foreclosed if it is cancelled by the top court of the land as no courts below would entertain the similar plea. 

A single-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court on February 10 had granted bail to Mishra following his nearly four-month-long incarceration in the case.

The top court, while cancelling the bail, however, said it cannot be oblivious to the submissions of the accused that cancellation of bail by this court is likely to be construed as an indefinite foreclosure of his right to seek bail. It is not necessary to dwell upon the wealth of case law which, regardless of the stringent provisions in a penal law or the gravity of the offence, has time and again recognised the legitimacy of seeking liberty from incarceration, it said.

To put it differently, no accused can be subjected to unending detention pending trial, especially when the law presumes him to be innocent until proven guilty. Even where statutory provisions expressly bar the grant of bail, such as in cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, this Court has expressly ruled that after a reasonably long period of incarceration, or for any other valid reason, such stringent provisions will meltdown, and cannot be measured over and above the right of liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, it said.

The bench did not agree to the submission of senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the victim farmers, that the fresh plea be not heard by the same high court judge saying the Chief Justice of the high court would take such a decision if any.

"This Court is tasked with ensuring that neither the right of an accused to seek bail pending trial is expropriated, nor the 'victim' or the State are denuded of their right to oppose such a prayer," it said.  In a situation like this, and with a view to balance the competing rights, this Court has been invariably remanding the matter(s) back to the High Court for fresh consideration. 

We are also of the considered view that ends of justice would be adequately met by remitting this case to the High Court for a fresh adjudication of the bail application of the Respondent/ Accused, in a fair, impartial, and dispassionate manner, and keeping in view the settled parameters which have been elaborated..., it said. 

On October 3 last year, eight people were killed in Lakhimpur Kheri during violence that erupted when farmers were protesting against Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya's visit to the area.



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