The Supreme Court, while affirming an accused’s ability to request bail, stated that no accused can be held indefinitely without trial, especially where there is a presumption of innocence. The Court made this statement while remanding Ashish Mishra’s bail plea in the Lakhimpur Kheri case to the High Court after canceling the High Court’s release.
The Allahabad High Court’s bail order was overturned by a bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana because it was based on extraneous grounds. At the same time, the Court considered Mishra’s lawyer’s concerns that the cancellation of release might be interpreted as an indefinite suspension of his right to seek relief.
The bench noted that, regardless of the severity of the penal terms, there are various case laws that recognize the legitimacy of seeking freedom from incarceration.
“To put it another way, no accused can be held indefinitely awaiting trial, especially when the law presumes him innocent unless proven guilty,” the Court stated.
“Even where statutory provisions expressly bar the grant of bail, such as in cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, this Court has expressly ruled that such stringent provisions will meltdown after a reasonably long period of incarceration, or for any other valid reason, and cannot be measured over and above the right to liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution,” Justice Surya Kant wrote in the judgment. A reference was made to the verdict in Union of India vs. KA Najeeb, which granted bail to a UAPA defendant who had been on the run for more than five years.
The Court further stated that it is responsible for ensuring that “neither an accused’s right to seek release pending trial, nor the ‘victim’ nor the State’s right to resist such a prayer is expropriated.”
As a result, the Court returned the bail application to the High Court for new consideration on the merits after giving the victims an opportunity to be heard, while setting aside the bail order and ordering the accused to surrender within a week.
CASE TITLE: Jagjeet Singh and Ors. v. Ashish Mishra @ Monu and Anr. Criminal Appeal No. 632 of 2022]