Without mincing any words of any kind, the Apex Court it must be said in an extremely laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment titled Rajesh Seth vs The State of Chhattisgarh in 2022 Live Law (SC) 200 and Special Leave to Appeal (Crl.) No(s).1247/2022 delivered as recently as on February 21, 2022 observed that indefinite adjournment in a matter relating to anticipatory bail, that too after admitting it, is detrimental to the valuable right of a person. In this case, as we see, the petitioner has filed an application under Section 438 CrPC seeking the grant of anticipatory bail along with an IA seeking ex-parte ad-interim bail/interim protection. Simply stated, on 17.01.2022, while admitting the application, the High Court directed it to be listed for final hearing 'in due course'. It arose out of impugned final judgment and order dated 17-01-2022 in MCRCA No.59/2022 passed by the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur.
Needless to say, the two key takeaways from this judgment are as follows: -
- Indefinite adjournment in a matter relating to anticipatory bail, that too after admitting it, is detrimental to the valuable right of a person - 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.
- When an application for anticipatory bail accompanied by an application for ad-interim relief is listed before the court, it should decide 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 court should list the same for final disposal on a specific date - Not giving any specific date is not a procedure which can be countenanced.
At the very outset, we must note that this extremely commendable, composed, cogent, creditworthy and courageous judgment which has been authored by a three Judge Bench of Apex Court comprising of CJI NV Ramana, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice Hima Kohli sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in the very beginning that, "The Court is convened through Video Conferencing. Heard learned counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner and carefully perused the material placed on record."
To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in the next para of this notable judgment that, "The petitioner filed an application under Section 438 Cr.PC seeking grant of anticipatory bail. The same was accompanied with an I.A. seeking ex-parte ad-interim bail/interim protection during the pendency of the main application."
As it turned out, the Bench then enunciates in the next para that, "When the application was listed before it on 17.01.2022, the High Court passed the following order: "Shri Sundeep Shrivastava, counsel for applicant. Shri Alok Nigam, Govt. Advocate for the State. Shri Goutam Khetrapal, counsel for complainant/objector. Heard. Admit. Call for case diary. Learned State counsel is directed to verify criminal antecedents of applicant, if any. List this case for final hearing in due course.""
Simply put, the Bench then while dwelling about the major grievance of the petitioner brings out in the next para that, "The main grievance of the petitioner is 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 I.A. seeking interim protection during pendency of the bail application although 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."
Of course, it certainly cannot be lost on us that the Bench then also discloses in the next para that, "Learned counsel for the petitioner submitted 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. Learned counsel 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."
Without pulling back any punches, the Apex Court Bench then while taking potshots on the Chhattisgarh High Court did not mince just any words to hold aptly in the next para that, "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."
Most fundamentally and also most remarkably, the Bench then forthrightly holds what forms the real cornerstone of this learned judgment wherein it is postulated that, "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."
Furthermore, while continuing in the same vein, the Bench then goes on to elegantly hold in the next para that, "Hence, we request the learned Single Judge of the High Court to dispose of the anticipatory bail application, pending adjudication before him, on its own merits and in accordance with law, expeditiously and preferably within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt/production of a copy of this order. If the main application cannot be disposed of for any reason, the I.A. for interim relief be considered on its own merits."
Going ahead, the Bench then for the sake of clarity mentions in the next para that, "Till such time, we grant interim protection from arrest to the petitioner herein. We clarify that this shall however not influence the view to be taken by the Learned Single Judge on merits."
What's more, the Bench then also adds in the next para that, "The special leave petition stands disposed of accordingly."
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in the concluding para that, "As a sequel to the above, pending interlocutory applications also stand disposed of."
In a nutshell, the Apex Court Bench led by CJI NV Ramana has in this noteworthy judgment made it very clear that indefinite adjournment in anticipatory bail matter is detrimental to the valuable right of a person. All the courts including the High Courts and also the Apex Court must always take into account what the three Judge Bench led by CJI NV Ramana has held so unambiguously in this leading case. The Bench minced absolutely no words to put across in simple, short and straightforward language 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 merits no reiteration that all the courts must always certainly unflinchingly abide by it to meet the ends of justice. There can be just no denying or disputing it! This alone explains why the right to life and personal liberty as postulated in Article 21 of the Constitution wherein it is stated that, "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law" is most commendably included in the most sacred category of fundamental rights and as every citizen enjoys this right, it is the major obligation of all the courts to ensure that it is strictly followed in practice and not in the breach in all the cases that comes before it!
There can be no gainsaying that even the Judges must be also made more aware of the supreme importance of personal liberty in the lives of citizens and in the healthy functioning of any democratic country. Even in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is mentioned specifically in Article 3 that, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." So it has to be always ensured by the Judges that there is no indefinite adjournments in anticipatory bail matters as it is very detrimental to the valuable right of a person.
No doubt, we all are also fully aware of the famous concepts given by learned Judges like eminent and legendary late former Supreme Court Justice VR Krishna Iyer who always accorded the personal liberty of citizens as paramount. It was Justice Iyer who had propounded the famous adage that, "Bail is the rule and jail is the exception." This is exactly what the Apex Court has sought to convey in this leading case also by vehemently opposing the indefinite adjournments in anticipatory bail matters which goes against the grain of speedy justice!
Last but not the least, it is high time now and Centre must also step in promptly without wasting any more time and take the first step of according the right to speedy justice as the basic fundamental rights of citizens. We are definitely now living in free India and not in British India when the right to personal liberty and life did not matter at all for the Indian subjects who were treated just like slaves. Even the judiciary which includes Judges who grant indefinite adjournments and lawyers who frequently seek adjournments on one pretext or the other must be also made fully accountable and there certainly should be no room of complacency for indefinite adjournments in any case whether it is anticipatory bail case or any other case! Only then can we truly progress and can really call ourselves free in the true sense. There can certainly be just no denying or disputing it!