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2011 Bhanwari Devi murder case: Supreme Court grants bail to Congress leader, says can’t keep a person in custody for an indefinite period of time

The petitioner was arrested under the charges of abduction and murder of Bhanwari Devi

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to Congress leader Paras Ram Vishnoi, who has been in custody for the last 8.5 years in the 2011 Bhanwari Devi abduction and murder case. 

A divisional bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hrishikesh Roy noted, “We are of the view that pending the trial we cannot keep a person in custody for an indefinite period of time and taking into consideration the period of custody and that the other accused are yet to lead defence evidence.”

The petitioner was arrested under the charges of abduction and murder of Bhanwari Devi in connection with FIR for the offences under Sections 120B, 364, 302, and 201 IPC and Section 3(2)(v) of SC/ ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The FIR alleged that a sitting MLA and a Cabinet Minister were the brains behind the abduction of his wife while apprehending that she has been murdered. The State Government handed over the investigation to the CBI.

The counsel for the petitioner contended before High Court that no Court can reach a conclusion that the petitioner was in any manner concerned with the conspiracy, much less being guilty of abduction and murder of the deceased.

Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani and Ajit Sharma, AOR for the petitioner, made critical submissions that going by the definition of a victim under Section 2(ec) of the said Act, no charge framed under the SC & ST Act qua the petitioner though the position may be different for a different set of accused.

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However, the High Court has observed and held, “Having derived a prima-facie satisfaction that there is no willful attempt on the part of the CBI to thwart the progress of the trial, I am of the view that none of the judgments cited by learned counsel for the petitioner can be pressed into service for grant of bail, as in all the judgments common thread of reasoning is that an accused cannot be kept in deprivation of liberty, for an unreasonably long period, if the prosecution is guilty of prolonging the trial.”

The bench released Vishnoi on bail after recording the observation made by the counsel for Vishnoi that he does not wish to lead defence evidence in a trial.

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