Bail not jail: Cases where the Supreme Court stood for liberty in 2022 Indiatoday

30, Dec 2022 | Srishti Ojha

Be it medical grounds or someone languishing behind bars for a long time, here’s a look at all such cases where the Supreme Court granted or upheld the granting of bail to an accused.

The principle ‘bail is the rule and jail is the exception’ has been well recognised by the Supreme Court through its pronouncements throughout the year. (File photo: PTI)

By Srishti Ojha: It’s true that personal liberty is an important aspect of our constitutional mandate, and relevance of the same was reiterated by the Supreme Court on multiple occasions this year.

The principle ‘bail is the rule and jail is the exception’ has been well recognised by the top court through its repetitive pronouncements.

In fact, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, while speaking at an event on Friday, said the rule ‘bail but not jail’ is one of the most fundamental rules of the criminal justice system.

The CJI said that in practice the number of undertrials languishing in prisons in India reflects a paradoxical situation, and deprivation of liberty, even for a single day, is a day too many.

“Liberty is one of the most essential requirements of the modern man. It is said to be the delicate fruit of a mature civilization. It is the very quintessence of civilized existence and essential requirement of a modern man,” John E.E.D. said in “Essays on Freedom and Power”, as also quoted by the Supreme Court in one of its recent judgments.

The year 2022 saw some orders from the Supreme Court of India upholding the right to liberty of accused, by allowing their release on bail.

During former CJI UU Lalit’s 74- day tenure, two orders in two weeks from a bench led by Justice Lalit were a reminder of an important principle of criminal jurisprudence: Bail is the rule, jail the exception.

The Supreme Court not only granted bail to activist Teesta Setalvad and journalist Siddique Kappan, but also posed crucial questions to the Government and the agencies about the opposition to the granting of bail in both these cases.

In Teesta’s case, the court granted her interim bail in a case pertaining to the offence of conspiracy and falsification of evidence in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots while noting that she’s a lady who has been in custody for two months and investigation agency had already had the advantage of custodial interrogation for seven days.

After being jailed for two years in Hathras conspiracy case, journalist Siddiqui Kappan was finally granted bail. He was booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and was repeatedly denied bail by lower courts.

Bench led by Justice UU Lalit grants bail to Varavara Rao

A bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia in August had granted bail to Elgar Parishad accused Varavara Rao, on medical grounds.

The bench considered several aspects while granting him bail including his age, his medical conditions, time period of 2.5 years that he was in custody, and the fact that trial was yet to begin in the case.

Bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud upholds bail granted to Anand Teltumbde

The Supreme Court in November dismissed National Investigation Agency’s challenge to bail granted to activist Anand Teltumbde by Bombay HC in the Elgar Parishad case.

A petition was filed by NIA before SC 3 days after the bail order, challenging the High Court’s order on various grounds. A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli however refused to interfere.

Bench led by CJI Chandrachud granted to bail to Godhra train carnage case convict

In the 2002 Godhra Train burning case, the Supreme Court in December granted bail to one of the convicts who’d sought bail on grounds that he had been in imprisonment for about 17 years.

A bench led by the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud granted bail having regard to facts and circumstances of the case, and the role attributed to him.

Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud grants bail to Mohammad Zubair

A bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AS Bopanna had in July granted bail to journalist Mohammad Zubair in all FIRs registered against him in UP for his tweets.

While clubbing the UP FIRs with the one in Delhi, the court had said that arrest is not meant to be and must not be used as a punitive tool because it results in one of the gravest possible consequences emanating from criminal law: the loss of personal liberty.

Bench led by Justice SK Kaul asks Centre to consider enacting separate bail act:

While issuing important directions for the investigating agencies and subordinate courts regarding grant of bail, the Supreme Court this year observed that arrest is a draconian measure resulting in curtailment of liberty, and is to be used sparingly.

“In a democracy, there can never be an impression that it is a police State as both are conceptually opposite to each other,” a bench comprising Justice SK Kaul and Justice MM Sundresh had observed.

The bench also asked the Government of India to consider introduction of separate enactment in nature of bail act to streamline grant of bails.

Bench led by Justice Nageswara Rao grants bail to Indrani Mukerjea

This year, the Supreme Court granted bail to Indrani Mukerjea in the case where she is accused in her daughter Sheena Bora’s murder case.

A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai and AS Bopanna granted bail considering that the trial is not likely to complete soon and that she has been under custody for 6.5 years.

Bench led by Justice Indira Banerjee grants bail to 12 convicts jailed for 14 years

In March, the Supreme Court granted bail to 12 convicts who were imprisoned for over 14 years with their bail applications pending before the High Court for years.

A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and AS Bopanna directed release to the convicts who who argued that they had undergone more than the actual sentences of 14 years and their appeals were not decided by the High Court.

Bench led by Justice Nageswara Rao granted bail to AG Perarivalan, later also directed his release

The Supreme Court had in March granted bail to AG Perarivalan, one of the convicts serving life sentence in former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Later in May, the court ordered AG Perarivalan’s release, invoking its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.

The court noted that the state government had recommended his release on remission in 2018, and it was pending before the Governor for over four years.

Following this order, a bench comprising Justices BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna few months later also ordered the premature release of six other convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Bench led by Justice MR Shah upholds bail granted to a cancer patient

In October this year, the court upheld bail granted to a cancer patient, and called out the Enforcement Directorate for filing such petition while ‘wasting the stationery, the legal fees and court’s time.’

The bench said that the ED ought not to have filed such a Special Leave Petition and refused to interfere in the case noting that the accused is suffering from cancer and thereafter, was released on bail.

The court also imposed a cost of Rs 1,00,000, to be borne by the concerned officer, who granted the permission to file petition.

The original piece may be read here


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