Supreme Court: Right to Default Bail Not a Mere Statutory Right

On Monday, a three judge Bench of the Court comprising Hon’ble Justice R.F. Nariman, Hon’ble Justice Navin Sinha and  Hon’ble Justice K.M. Joseph observed that right to default bail is not a mere statutory right but is part of the procedure established by law under Article 21 of the Constitution of India while granting bail to an accused.

Brief facts of the Case:-

The appellant Bikramjit Singh was charged under Sections 3, 4, 5, 6 of the Explosive Substances Act, Sections 302, 307, 452, 427, 341, 34 of IPC and under Section 13 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. 

As per the statement of a witness, on 18.11.2018, two young boys came on a motorbike and threatened the security guard(witness) with a pistol. One of the boys went inside Satsang Bhawan and threw a Hand Grenade on the stage and injured and killed some of the people who were holding prayers inside the Satsang Hall. After committing the act, they fled towards Adliwal village.

Based on the FIR, The Punjab State Police arrested the appellant Bkiramjit Singh on 22.11.2018. The sub-divisional magistrate remanded him to police custody. After his ninety-day custody expired on 21.02.2019, the appellant moved an application for default bail to the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate, Ajnala. His application was dismissed, and the reason given for dismissal was that by order dated 13.02.2019 which custody was increased from 90 to 180 days under section 167 of the CrPc.

This order was challenged and the additional sessions court Judge Special Court vide order dated 25.02.19 held that the Ilaqa Magistrate had no jurisdiction to pass the order and only the Special Court had the jurisdiction to pass an order in applications moved under 45(D) (2) Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.

One day later on 26.03.2019, a charge sheet was filed before the Special judge. The appellants were charged under various sections of the IPC and explosives Substance Act.

A revision petition was then filed against the order dated 25.02.2019 which was dismissed by the Special Judge on 11.04.2019 who, after noticing the order dated 25.03.2019 allowing the revision petition against the order dated 13.02.2019 of the Judicial Magistrate.

Then on 11.04.2019, application dated 08.04.2019 for default bail was dismissed as well.

Aggrieved, the appellants moved the Supreme Court:-

Proceedings Before the Supreme Court:-

Arguments of the counsel for the appellants:-

Learned counsel for the appellants stated once a Special Court is set up to try all offences under UAPA then the Special Court will have exclusive jurisdiction to extend the period of remand from 90 to 180 days under Section 43-D (2)(b) of the UAPA. 

He argued that the appellants indefeasible right to default bail arose I when the 90 day period was over. It was also argued that the appellants right to default bail was not extinguished jus because the charge sheet was filed.

Contentions of the Respondent State

It was argued that Section 10 of the NIA Act would affect the State Government’s power to investigate the case. 

Further argument was that the investigation was done by the State Police and nit the NIA, so the Ilaqa magistrate had the right to extend the remend and dismiss the default bail application.

Reasoning of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court opined that the High Court was incorrect in stating that once the prosecution presented the challan, the appellants right to default bail was extinguished. 

Hon’ble Supreme Court also observed that the High Court had got the dates all wrong.  The Court observed that the application for default bail was made on 25.02.2019 and not on 26.03.2019, while the charge sheet was filed on 26.03.2019 and not on 25.03.2019.

It was further observed that just because the application for default bail was dismissed on 25.02.2019 would make no difference on the case. 

On the ground that the bail application was dismissed because the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate, Ajnala had extended the initial remand of 90 days, the Court opined that the Special Court alone had jurisdiction to extend the time to 180 days under the first proviso in Section 43-D(2)(b). 

Decision of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Courtt allowed the petition and the order passed by the High Court was set aside. The appellants were ordered to be released on bail.

Case Details:-

Title: Bikramjit Singh Versus The State Of Punjab

Case No- Criminal Appeal. 667 OF 2020 

Date of Order:12.10.2020

Coram: Hon’ble Justice R.F. Nariman, Hon’ble Justice Navin Sinha and  Hon’ble Justice K.M. Joseph

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