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Supreme Court ‘shock’ at year’s delay in bail hearing

The apex court made a rare intervention on the ground of violation of the fundament right to life and liberty
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
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Our Legal Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 17.06.21, 02:58 AM

The Supreme Court has expressed shock at Punjab and Haryana High Court not even listing the bail application of an accused for over a year, let alone decide on the plea, making a rare intervention on the ground of violation of the fundamental right to life and liberty.

The top court also said that despite the pandemic, at least half the judges must sit on alternate days to hear matters relating to people’s distress.

A Supreme Court bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian said it was “shocked” that the bail application of Chunni Lal Gaba was pending for more than a year and asked the high court to hear it at an early date. Gaba is facing criminal prosecution by the Enforcement Directorate for alleged financial irregularities.

The accused had moved the special leave petition in the apex court pleading that despite a year having passed since he applied for bail, the high court had not listed the matter for a formal hearing.

Agreeing with Gaba, the Supreme Court passed the following order:

“The present special leave petition is directed against an order whereby the request for hearing of an application for bail under Section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, pending since 28.0 2.2020, was declined. Normally, we do not interfere with an interim order passed by the high court but we are constrained to pass the present order as we are 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 to life and liberty assured to an accused. Even during the pandemic, when all courts are making attempts to hear and decide all matters, 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 alternate 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. Therefore, we 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.

“Let the registrar-general of the high court bring this order to the notice of the competent authority to take remedial steps at the earliest….”

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