Right to personal liberty cannot be curtailed by blanket orders: SC

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admin November 9, 2021
Updated 2021/11/09 at 2:53 PM

The Supreme Court has ruled that a blanket restriction on the listing of pleas for bail or sentence suspension infringes on the right to personal liberty of the jailed, and that a Rajasthan High Court judge went “beyond his allotted judicial duty” by issuing such orders. The Supreme Court made the comments in a unique instance in which the Rajasthan High Court appealed two rulings by its own judge to the Supreme Court.

The register was directed not to include bail pleas, appeals, petitions for suspension of sentence, and revisions in the category of severe urgent proceedings until the Centre removes the national comprehensive lockdown imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was approved on March 31 last year.

The second ruling by the same court, which was upheld by the High Court, was dated May 17, 2021, and commanded police not to make any arrests for crimes punishable by up to three years in prison until July 17.

“In our opinion, judgments under appeal made on March 31, 2020 and May 17, 2021 encroached into the administrative jurisdiction of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Rajasthan in the subject of allocating business to judges of that Court,” a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose wrote.

The bench, citing several Supreme Court cases, said that the chief justice’s view on allocating work to individual judges is well established in light of the Supreme Court’s decisions.

“Apart from this jurisdictional issue, on which we find the single judge went beyond his assigned judicial business,” the bench wrote in its recent decision, “a blanket order prohibiting the listing of bail applications or applications for sentence suspension in appeals also infringes upon the right to personal liberty of incarcerated persons.”

It claimed that such a privilege had been taken away by court order, without following the legal system, which is known as “the due process dictum” in constitutional law.

“Individuals have the right to ask for bail, which is enshrined in Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution. Sections 439, 438, and 389 of the Criminal Procedure Code acknowledge the right of an accused, an undertrial prisoner, or a convicted person awaiting the outcome of an appeal court to request bail on suspension of sentence “The bench remarked.

The factors guiding appeal provision are contained in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and if there is a blanket ban on the listing of these applications, even for offences with lesser degrees of punishment, it would effectively block access for those seeking liberty to apply for bail and, in effect, suspend the fundamental rights of those in or apprehending detention.

Senior counsel Vijay Hansaria, who represented the High Court, argued that the chief judge of a high court has the authority to list issues by determining the roster and that such administrative power cannot be taken by any bench.

“Such wide orders in our adversarial adjudicatory system would be contrary to law,” the bench stated, referring to the judge’s authority to issue such orders. “Many individuals would be affected by such rulings without having any knowledge of the procedure.”

“It was also improper for the single judge to come to the general conclusion that bail applications, appeals under the SC/ST Act, and applications for suspension of sentence in appeals and revisions could not be considered to be matters of extreme urgency when there is a complete lockdown,” the Supreme Court said.

“The orders were made in connection with criminal issues, and they would have had a negative impact on persons who were in or were about to be placed in pre-trial custody, as well as prisoners awaiting their appeals. Individual circumstances of great urgency may exist for undertrial detainees or convicts to request for bail after the suspension of their sentence for the latter type of plaintiffs.”

The Supreme Court ruled that the judge “made a mistake” in selecting the categories of cases in the challenged orders, concluding that these cases could not be judged to be of great urgency.

“Directing the Registrar (Judicial) not to put bail, appeals, and petitions for suspension of sentence in appeals and revisions under the category of severe urgent issues was also not within his competence,” it added.

According to the Supreme Court, by issuing such an order, the judge had acquired the chief justice’s administrative competence over-allocating work to individual justices of the court.

“Also, by giving such broad directives, a judgement has been made that should have been left to the different Benches to consider whether the particular instances came under the category of severe urgency warranting listing, even during the epidemic,” the bench said.

Both of the judge’s rulings were previously stayed by the Supreme Court on April 3, 2020 and May 25, 2021.

The Supreme Court stated that, while the impact of the orders under appeal has passed, it has decided to express its opinion on the matter because the directions issued had the potential to violate the constitutional and legal rights of individuals who could be or are arraigned in criminal proceedings, as well as place restrictions on the investigative agencies’ power.

 

Source: MoneyControl

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