Sanjay Chandra vs. CBI
The appeals were directed against the common judgment and Order of the learned Single Judge of the High Court of Delhi refusing to grant bail to the accused-Appellants.
The Appellants were facing trial in respect of the offences under Sections 420-B, 468, 471 and 109 of Indian Penal Code and Section 13(2) read with 13(i)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Bail has been refused first by the Special Judge, CBI, New Delhi and subsequently, by the High Court. Both the courts have listed the factors, on which they think, were relevant for refusing the Bail applications filed by the applicants as seriousness of the charge; the nature of the evidence in support of the charge; the likely sentence to be imposed upon conviction; the possibility of interference with witnesses; the objection of the prosecuting authorities; possibility of absconding from justice.
The Supreme Court observed that in bail applications, generally, it has been laid down from the earliest times that the object of bail is to secure the appearance of the accused person at his trial by reasonable amount of bail. The object of bail is neither punitive nor preventative. Deprivation of liberty must be considered a punishment, unless it can be required to ensure that an accused person will stand his trial when called upon. The courts owe more than verbal respect to the principle that punishment begins after conviction, and that every man is deemed to be innocent until duly tried and duly found guilty. From the earliest times, it was appreciated that detention in custody pending completion of trial could be a cause of great hardship. From time to time, necessity demands that some un-convicted persons should be held in custody pending trial to secure their attendance at the trial but in such cases, ‘necessity’ is the operative test. It would be quite contrary to the concept of personal liberty enshrined in the Constitution that any person should be punished in respect of any matter, upon which, he has not been convicted or that in any circumstances, he should be deprived of his liberty upon only the belief that he will tamper with the witnesses if left at liberty, save in the most extraordinary circumstances. Apart from the question of prevention being the object of a refusal of bail, one must not lose sight of the fact that any imprisonment before conviction has a substantial punitive content and it would be improper for any Court to refuse bail as a mark of disapproval of former conduct whether the accused has been convicted for it or not or to refuse bail to an un-convicted person for the purpose of giving him a taste of imprisonment as a lesson.
The Supreme Court, time and again, had stated that bail is the rule and committal to jail an exception. It was also observed that refusal of bail is a restriction on the personal liberty of the individual guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. It was held obvious that the nature of the charge is the vital factor and the nature of the evidence also is pertinent. The punishment to which the party may be liable, if convicted or conviction is confirmed, also bear upon the issue. Another relevant factor is as to whether the course of justice would be thwarted by him who seeks the benignant jurisdiction of the Court to be freed for the time being. Thus the legal principles and practice validate the Court considering the likelihood of the applicant interfering with witnesses for the prosecution or otherwise polluting the process of justice. It is not only traditional but rational to enquire into the antecedents of a man who is applying for bail to find whether he has a bad record – particularly a record which suggests that he is likely to commit serious offences while on bail. In regard to habituals, it is part of criminological history that a thoughtless bail order has enabled the bailee to exploit the opportunity to inflict further crimes on the members of society. Bail discretion, on the basis of evidence about the criminal record of a Defendant is therefore not an exercise in irrelevance.
On the facts of the present case, both the Courts have refused the request for grant of bail on two grounds: The primary ground was that offence alleged against the accused persons is very serious involving deep rooted planning in which, huge financial loss is caused to the State exchequer; the secondary ground was that the possibility of the accused persons tempering with the witnesses. In the present case, the charge is that of cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property, forgery for the purpose of cheating using as genuine a forged document. The punishment of the offence is punishment for a term which may extend to seven years. It is, no doubt, true that the nature of the charge may be relevant, but at the same time, the punishment to which the party may be liable, if convicted, also bears upon the issue. Therefore, in determining whether to grant bail, both the seriousness of the charge and the severity of the punishment should be taken into consideration. The grant or refusal to grant bail lies within the discretion of the Court. The grant or denial is regulated, to a large extent, by the facts and circumstances of each particular case. But at the same time, right to bail is not to be denied merely because of the sentiments of the community against the accused. The primary purposes of bail in a criminal case are to relieve the accused of imprisonment, to relieve the State of the burden of keeping him, pending the trial, and at the same time, to keep the accused constructively in the custody of the Court, whether before or after conviction, to assure that he will submit to the jurisdiction of the Court and be in attendance thereon whenever his presence is required.
When the undertrial prisoners are detained in jail custody to an indefinite period, Article 21 of the Constitution is violated. Every person, detained or arrested, is entitled to speedy trial, the question is : whether the same is possible in the present case. There are seventeen accused persons. Statement of the witnesses runs to several hundred pages and the documents on which reliance is placed by the prosecution, is voluminous. The trial may take considerable time and it seemed that the Appellants, who were in jail, had to remain in jail longer than the period of detention, had they been convicted. It is not in the interest of justice that accused should be in jail for an indefinite period. No doubt, the offence alleged against the Appellants is a serious one in terms of alleged huge loss to the State exchequer, that, by itself, should not deter the court from enlarging the Appellants on bail when there is no serious contention of the Respondent that the accused, if released on bail, would interfere with the trial or tamper with evidence.
The Appellants were thus ordered to be released on bail on their executing a bond with two solvent sureties, each in a sum of Rs.5 lakhs to the satisfaction of the Special Judge, CBI, New Delhi on the following conditions:
- The Appellants shall not directly or indirectly make any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts or the case so as to dissuade him to disclose such facts to the Court or to any other authority.
- They shall remain present before the Court on the dates fixed for hearing of the case. If they want to remain absent, then they shall take prior permission of the court and in case of unavoidable circumstances for remaining absent, they shall immediately give intimation to the appropriate court and also to the Superintendent, CBI and request that they may be permitted to be present through the counsel.
- They will not dispute their identity as the accused in the case.
- They shall surrender their passport, if any (if not already surrendered), and in case, they are not a holder of the same, they shall swear to an affidavit. If they have already surrendered before the Ld. Special Judge, CBI, that fact should also be supported by an affidavit.
- We reserve liberty to the CBI to make an appropriate application for modification/recalling the order passed by us, if for any reason, the Appellants violate any of the conditions imposed by this Court.