Supreme Court: The bench of P.C. Ghose and Amitava Roy, JJ directed the State of Bihar to take all consequential steps, inter alia, for taking Md. Shahabuddin, the respondent-accused, to custody forthwith. The Court said that balancing the considerations of individual liberty and societal interest as well as the prescriptions and the perception of law regarding bail, it appears that the Patna High Court erred in granting bail to the respondent-accused without taking into consideration the overall facts otherwise having a bearing on the exercise of its discretion on the issue.

Prashant Bhushan, counsel appearing for the complainant had contended that the High Court had committed a gross error in granting bail to the respondent-accused and did not consider the contents of the F.I.R. as well as the fact that he is a habitual offender, and that he has in the meantime been awarded two sentences of life imprisonment and also named in several criminal cases. He further urged that the respondent-accused is a category-A history sheeter in view of his persistent criminal antecedents and as in the case in hand, he has been charged with the offence of facilitating murder of a witness in a case in which he was being tried, he ought not to have been granted bail in any view of the matter.

However, Shekhar Napahde, the counsel appearing for the respondent-accused submitted that the High Court granted bail on the ground that the trial could not be completed within a period of nine months, as directed by the High Court vide order dated 03.02.2016 while rejecting his earlier prayer for bail in the same case.

Considering the arguments, the Court held that although it has to be accepted that the respondent-accused has already been granted bail by the concerned courts in other cases, a duty is cast upon the Court in addressing such a prayer in a case on its own merit, and while applying its discretion, it must be applied in a judicious manner and not as a matter of course. The Court further said that tough the period of custody is a relevant factor, the same has to be weighed simultaneously with the totality of the circumstances and the criminal antecedents in the scale of collective cry and desire and that societal concern has to be kept in view in juxtaposition to individual liberty. [Chandrakeshwar Prasad v. State of Bihar, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1054, decided on 30.09.2016]

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