Supreme Court: In a significant case, the 4-judges Bench comprising of Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat, P.S. Narasimha and Sudhanshu Dhulia, JJ., issued directions to all the High Courts of the country to submit reports indicating status of cases where bail has been granted by the Supreme Court i.e. if any of such persons are deprived of the opportunity of being released on bail for some reason or the other.
“… where the custody of a person for 9 years was found to be sufficient to entitle him to be released on bail, is now turned into custody for 11 years. This is nothing but reincarnation of Hussainara Khatoon & Motil Ram.”
By an order dated 28-09-2020 the Supreme Court had directed to release the petitioner on interim bail after noting that the petitioner had been in custody since 12-05-2011 and had completed more than 9 years of actual imprisonment. The Court had order that the petitioner be produced before the Trial Court within three days and the Trial Court shall release him on interim bail on such terms and conditions as the Trial Court may deem appropriate.
Despite the aforestated order the petitioner was not bailed out and was kept in custody, on being apprised of this fact the Court had sought explanation from the Police and Jail officials concerned. The Superintendent, Central Prison, revealed that the order dated 28-09-2020 was received in the Prison on 06-10-2020. However, due to Covid-19 Pandemic restrictions, the movement of the prisoner was not immediately possible and the application reached before the Court on 29-10-2022 for consideration of bail when the Trial Court passed the following order: “How the petition is maintainable after expiry of time as per orders of Supreme Court. Hence, returned.”
Hence, despite the order of the Supreme Court the petitioner continued to be in custody.
On being apprised of the fact that the order was transmitted through electronic mode immediately but the physical copy was sent in due course, which was received in the Jail on 06-10-2020, the Court expressed,
“This case portrays very sorry state of affairs.”
Disappointed by the reasoning of the Trial Court the Court clarified that the reason why stipulation was inserted in the order that “the petitioner shall be produced before the Trial Court within three days and the Trial Court shall release him on interim bail” was to expedite the process. The reason was not to put any limitation of a specified period within which time alone the bail could be availed and not thereafter. The Court remarked,
“The order was construed by the concerned Trial Court as if, after the expiry of three days, the petitioner had no right to be released on bail. We are surprised that a Judicial Officer had read the order passed by this Court, in the manner as it gets disclosed from his order.”
Hence, the Court directed the High Court to call for an explanation from the Presiding Officer concerned of the Trial Court and deal with the matter on the administrative side. At the same time, the Court expressed concerns as to whether similar kind of situations have arisen or do arise despite the order passed by the Supreme Court. Pursuant to which the Court suggested for a corrective mechanism—especially where the proceedings are initiated through the Legal Services Authority—and passed the following general directions:
- All the High Courts were directed to provide details of all such orders which remain to be complied with and about the persons concerned who are still languishing in jail. The Court proposed for the High Court to maintain a register as to how many matters orders directing release of the persons on bail were issued and if out of such total number of matters, any person stood deprived of the opportunity of being released on bail for some reason or the other. The Register must indicate the reason including whether proper security etc. could be arranged by the concerned person or not. Such matters should then be listed before the concerned court in the succeeding month and the fact that the person has not yet been released on bail, be brought to the notice of the Court concerned under whose orders the relief of bail was afforded to the person(s).
- The High Courts were directed to provide the details within six weeks.
With regard to the instant case, the petitioner had been released on bail. As a concluding note, the Court stated,
“We must observe that these matters be taken with utmost seriousness by the High Court and by all the concerned.”
The matter is listed on 11-07-2022 for further hearing.
[Gopisetty Harikrishna v. State of A.P., 2022 SCC OnLine SC 654, order dated 09-05-2022]
For Petitioner(s): Senior Advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani, AOR Revathy Raghavan, Advocates Divya Singhvi, Neha syal and Jeyam
For Respondent(s): Senior Advocate S. Niranjan Reddy, AOR Mahfooz A. Nazki, Advocate Polanki Gowtham, Shaik Mohamad Haneef, T. Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy, Rajeswari Mukherjee, K.V.Girish Chowdary, Akhila Palem, Abhishek Sharma and Sahil Raveen
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together