Time up: Editorial on necessity of time-frames for legal procedures The Telegraph

25, Aug 2022

Supreme Court’s recent order to Gujarat govt to set date for the bail hearing of Teesta Setalvad, within two days from the date of the order indicates how seriously the court considers the issue of bail

Representational file image
Representational file image
Detention without trial should not be the punishment itself. Hence the importance of bail, which should always be granted except for specific reasons. The Supreme Court’s recent order to the Gujarat government to set the date for the bail hearing of the social activist, Teesta Setalvad, within two days from the date of the order indicates how seriously the court considers the issue of bail. A government is usually given a fortnight regarding such notices. Although Ms Setalvad’s bail application was presented in the first week of August, the date for hearing was set at later than six weeks. Clearly, this delay is unacceptable to the court. Its order sets an example — by pushing the state government into action, it emphasises the necessity of reasonable time-frames. Ms Setalvad campaigned for the rights of those at the receiving end of the 2002 Gujarat violence. Hence the order is also important in cutting through the possibility of political interference in the legal process.

This order comes after a few days of the Supreme Court’s order on the Elgaar Parishad case, in which 16 writers, lawyers, teachers, journalists, social workers and a priest were detained under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code. With one death in custody after refusal of bail, and two grants of bail, 13 people, many of whom have been in prison for four years and the others a few months less, remain incarcerated with their applications for bail refused repeatedly. They were arrested for allegedly delivering inflammatory speeches that supposedly led to the BhimaKoregaon violence in 2017, and were additionally accused of connections to a banned extremist organization, of conspiring against the State and so on. But bail is not the theme of the Supreme Court’s order in this case: it reportedly underlined the fact that no charges had been framed even after four years. The National Investigation Agency, in charge of the investigation, has now been ordered by the Supreme Court to produce the charges that will lead to trial as well as to address discharge applications within three months. While speeding up the justice process, this would establish the importance of following reasonable time-frames. Besides, the Supreme Court’s order reasserts the primacy of legal procedure over all possible extraneous reasons for the delay.

The original piece may be read here


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