Supreme Court slams trial courts for seeking needless custody

NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed shock over some trial courts not complying with its July 2022 order to be liberal and grant bail to accused in cases when custody is not needed.

Asking the courts not to pass detention orders in a routine and mechanical way and thus deny liberty to the accused, the SC said such judges needed to be sent to academies for “upgrading their knowledge”.

The apex court also warned that prosecuting agencies, including CBI, and public prosecutors would be “hauled up” if they continued taking a stand in the trial courts contrary to the apex court verdict while opposing bail petitions. It asked the Centre and states to brief prosecutors on the issue.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Aravind Kumar was furious when it was brought to its notice that bail was still being denied to the accused in many cases in violation of its order passed last year in July and even the prosecuting agencies including CBI was taking a stand in trial court contrary to the apex court verdict while opposing bail plea.

The bench warned that prosecuting agencies and public prosecutors would also be “hauled up” if it is repeated and asked the Centre and states to brief the prosecutor on the issue.

Observing that there was no place for a police state in a democracy where investigating agencies can arrest people unnecessarily and in mechanical way, the top court in July last year passed a slew of directions to put a curb on agencies from arresting people in cognisable offences punishable upto seven years jail term where custody is not needed and also asked the criminal courts to protect the liberty of people and be liberal in granting bail. It held that the accused who was not arrested during the probe and cooperated in the investigation should not be taken into custody on filing of chargesheet.

Senior advocates Sidharth Luthra and Maninder Singh brought to court’s notice many orders passed by trial courts in Lucknow, Hathras and Ghaziabad which were in violation of SC’s direction and even the prosecuting agencies took stand before the lower courts which were contrary to SC’s verdict.

Perusing the orders, the court said that the trial judges passed the contrary order despite noting SC’s last year verdict and said that such judges needed more training at judicial academy and entrusted the task to High Courts to take action against them.

“It is not that SC judgement (for not sending people to custody where it is not required) was not brought to court’s notice as the order noted the verdict. It is something which cannot be countenanced. It is the duty of High Courts to ensure that subordinate judiciary follows the law of the land. If such order is passed then judicial work of judicial officers be withdrawn and they be sent to judicial academy for upgrading their skill,” the bench said.

Noting that a large number of such cases are from Uttar Pradesh, the bench asked the Allahabad High Court to take corrective measures. The bench also pulled up the CBI for taking stand in contrary to its order on bail, resulting in multiple litigations.

Additional solicitor general, appearing for CBI, assured the court that the agency would issue directions to its public prosecutor not to take stand contrary to SC’s verdict while opposing bail plea.

The court also expressed unhappiness over High Courts of Delhi, Telangana, Meghalaya and Uttrakhand for not complying with its order on filing status report on undertrial prisoners languishing in jail and directed that their Registrar appear before it on next date of hearing.

Terming arrest as a draconian measure to be used sparingly by police, the apex court had last year said the principle that bail is the rule and jail is the exception is on the touchstone of Article 21(Right to Life and Liberty ) of the Constitution and also the Presumption of innocence is a universal principal. — (ToI)