“Mockery of Justice”: Supreme Court Slams NIA for 4-Year Delay, Grants Bail to Accused

In a stern admonition delivered on Wednesday, the Supreme Court criticized the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for the protracted delay in a counterfeit currency case, which resulted in the accused remaining in detention for four years without trial. The Division Bench, composed of Justices JB Pardiwala and Ujjal Bhuyan, underscored the constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial for every individual, irrespective of the crime’s gravity.

During the proceedings, the justices expressed their dismay over the NIA’s handling of the case. “You are the NIA. Please do not make a mockery of justice. It is 4 years, and the trial has not commenced. This is not done. Whatever offence the accused has committed, he has the right to a speedy trial. Do not say a word now. Not a word,” the Court remarked sharply.

The case originated from a 2020 operation by Mumbai Police, based on confidential documents that led to the seizure of counterfeit currency notes, allegedly sourced from Pakistan. The investigation was subsequently handed over to the NIA, which revealed that the accused had traveled to Dubai in February 2020 and purportedly received the counterfeit currency during that trip.

The apex court was addressing an appeal against a February 2024 decision by the Bombay High Court, which had denied bail to the accused. Highlighting the infringement of the right to a speedy trial as enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court overturned the High Court’s decision and granted bail to the accused.

Justice Pardiwala stated, “Howsoever serious a crime may be, the accused has a right to a speedy trial as enshrined under the constitution. The right to a speedy trial was infringed, thereby violating Article 21”.

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The Court also pointed out that while the accused had been detained for four years as an undertrial, charges had yet to be framed by the trial court, and the prosecution was expected to examine 80 witnesses. Notably, two co-accused in the case had been granted bail, with one of the bail orders currently under review by the Supreme Court.

Concluding the session, the Supreme Court set aside the Bombay High Court’s order and granted bail to the accused, subject to conditions imposed by the trial court. Additionally, the accused is required to report to the NIA’s Bombay office every 15 days.

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