Supreme Court on Bail & Speedy Trial

      Today there are more than 3 lakh (300,000) under trials in jail. Many of them have been incarcerated for periods far more than the period to which they could have been sentenced.

    Judicial pronouncements sound wonderful but only the rich and the powerful are able to take advantage of the system to ensure their personal liberty. The poor, the ordinary man on the street do not count.


SC restores primacy of ‘bail not jail’

It Is Not In The Interest Of Justice That Accused Be In Jail Indefinitely: Court

Dhananjay Mahapatra TNN

New Delhi: In granting bail to five corporate biggies in the 2G scam, the Supreme Court on Wednesday restored primacy of the 33-year-old “bail is the rule and jail an exception” judicial philosophy, which had been clouded by a stringent approach by courts in a maze of high value economic offences that hit the country since the 1990s.

     A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and H L Dattu said the object of bail was neither punitive nor preventive but was meant to secure presence of the accused during the trial while ensuring that he did not tamper with evidence or attempted influencing witnesses, an argument that was repeatedly advanced by criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani before the Supreme Court during arguments on bail pleas.

     Justice Dattu, authoring the 63-page judgment for the Supreme Court bench, said, “The courts owe more than verbal respect to the principle that punishment begins after conviction, and that every man is deemed to be innocent until duly tried and duly found guilty.”

     The bench reiterated the principle authoritatively laid down in four 1978 judgments of the Supreme Court.

     It also reiterated that when there was a delay in trial, bail should be granted to the accused as “it is not in the interest of justice that accused should be in jail for an indefinite period”.

      The Supreme Court’s disapproval of the present judicial trend of keeping undertrial accused in prolonged judicial custody could come as a balm to many an accused who have been consistently denied bail in big-ticket cases relating to white collar crime.

     Wednesday’s judgment will not only give hope to nine other accused in the 2G scam including former telecom minister A Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi to press for bail soon, but also prompt CWG scam main accused Suresh Kalmadi to present a petition before the trial court seeking release on bail.

     The bench said facts and circumstances in some cases necessitated keeping the accused behind bar but reminded itself that from the earliest times, it had been held that keeping an accused in custody till the completion of trial could be a cause of great hardship and violation of personal liberty.

     “In this country, it would be quite contrary to the concept of personal liberty enshrined in the Constitution that any person should be punished in respect of any matter, upon which, he has not been convicted or that in any circumstances, he should be deprived of his liberty upon only the belief that he will tamper with the witnesses if left at liberty, save in the most extraordinary circumstances,” it said.

      It said right to bail was not to be denied merely because of the sentiments of the community against the accused as the primary purpose of bail in a criminal case was to relieve the accused of imprisonment, to relieve the state of the burden of keeping him and to ensure that he remained committed to attend the trial by submitting to the trial court’s jurisdiction.

     Jethmalani hailed the judicial principles enunciated by the apex court in its judgment. He told TOI, “I am glad the Supreme Court has corrected the distortion which had crept into the bail jurisprudence some time ago.”

     The court said, “When the under-trial prisoners are detained in jail custody to an indefinite period, Article 21 of the Constitution is violated. Every person, detained or arrested, is entitled to speedy trial.”

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