Constitutional Courts Can grant bail in UAPA cases for Violation of Right to Speedy Trial: Supreme Court

Recently, the Supreme Court held that Section 43D(5) of UAPA does not oust Constitutional Courts’ ability to grant bail in cases where there is a violation of the Fundamental Right to Speedy Trial.

The Bench observed that in cases where there is less likelihood of a trial being completed within a reasonable time and where the period of incarceration undergone has surpassed a substantial part of the prescribed sentence.

These observations were made while the Court dismissed the appeal filed by National Investigation Agency (NIA) against a Kerala High Court order granting bail to accused in palm chopping of Thodupuzha Newman College professor T J Joseph in 2011. NIA contended that the High Court made an error in granting bail without adverting to the statutory rigours mentioned u/s 43D(5) of UAPA.

In that case, seven members of a gang chopped the right palm of professor T J Joseph. Joseph’sThe gang chopped Joseph’s hand because he had allegedly insulted Prophet Mohammed in a question paper prepared by him in the Malayalam department of the Newman College at Thodupuzha.

The Bench noted that, in this case, the High Court invoked its power to grant bail due to the long period of incarceration and the unlikelihood of the trial’s completion. 

After going through a catena of judgements, the Court observed that statutory restrictions like Section 43­D (5) of UAPA do not oust the ability of Constitutional Courts to grant bail due to violation of Part III of Constitution. 

Even though Courts are expected to appreciate legislative policy against bail, but in such cases, restrictions meltdown when there is a likelihood that the trial will not finish on time then provisions like Section 43D (5) of UAPA cannot be used by courts for denial of bail.

The Court also relied on Shaheen Welfare vs Union of India where the Court held that delay in disposal of such cases would justify invocation of Article 21 of Constitution and necessitate the release of undertrials on bails.

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