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Supreme Court denounces indefinite delay in hearing pre-arrest bail plea by High Courts

The petitioner submitted before the Apex Court that till date, the matter has not been listed for hearing and no order has been passed about the interim protection during the pendency of the anticipatory bail application filed by his client.

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Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana on Monday expressed his grave concern over the conduct of High Courts in dealing with anticipatory bail applications while stating an “indefinite adjournment” in matters related to pre-arrest bail is “detrimental” to the valuable right of a person and this procedure adopted by the high courts cannot be “countenanced”. 

Justice Ramana said,

“We find it necessary to emphasize that when a person is before the Court and that too in a matter involving personal liberty, least what is expected is for such a person to be given the result one way or the other, based on the merit of his case and not push him to a position of uncertainty or be condemned without being heard, when it matters.” 

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The Supreme Court’s opinion came while it was dealing with a plea for anticipatory bail against the order of the High Court which had admitted the anticipatory bail case but adjourned application for interim protection, indefinitely. The bench which also comprised of Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli directed the High Court to expeditiously hear and decide the anticipatory bail plea as per its merits within a period of two weeks while also granting interim protection from arrest to the accused, till such time. 

The main grievance of the petitioner was that the High Court merely admitted the anticipatory bail application filed by him with a further direction to list in due course, but did not consider his seeking interim protection during pendency of the bail application although the co-accused in the same FIR has been granted interim protection from arrest till the final disposal of application for anticipatory bail by the High Court.

He submitted before the Apex Court that till date, the matter has not been listed for hearing and no order has been passed about the interim protection during the pendency of the anticipatory bail application filed by his client. He further submitted that if the petitioner is arrested during the pendency of anticipatory bail application, it would become infructuous and his legal right will be defeated. He therefore seeks to ensure that the matter is heard by the High Court and the valuable right of the petitioner be protected.

The Supreme Court noted,

“Having heard learned counsel for the petitioner and on carefully perusing the impugned order, we are compelled to disapprove the course adopted by the High Court as a matter of procedure. When an application for anticipatory bail was listed before the learned Single Judge, which was also accompanied by an application for ad-interim relief, the learned Judge should have decided the same one way or the other, so far as the ad-interim prayer or should have taken up for consideration after giving some reasonable time to the State. Even if admitted, the learned Judge should have listed the same for final disposal on a specific date, keeping in view the nature of relief sought in the matter. Not giving any specific date, particularly in a matter relating to anticipatory bail, is not a procedure which can be countenanced.”

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“We are of the considered view that this type of indefinite adjournment in a matter relating to anticipatory bail, that too after admitting it, is detrimental to the valuable right of a person. We make it clear that we have not adverted to the merits involved in the case since it is premature for us to do so at this stage. However, having noted the manner in which the learned Single Judge has dealt with the matter we find it necessary to emphasize that when a person is before the Court and that too in a matter involving personal liberty, least what is expected is for such a person to be given the result one way or the other, based on the merit of his case and not push him to a position of uncertainty or be condemned without being heard, when it matters,”

-it added. 

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