New Delhi, April 1
Notwithstanding stringent conditions provided under Section 37 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, inordinate delay in trial can be a ground to grant bail to an accused, the Supreme Court has ruled.
Section 37 of the Act says the court can grant bail to an accused only when it is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is not guilty of such offence and that he is unlikely to commit any offence while on bail.
However, a Bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Dipankar Dutta said, “The grant of bail on ground of undue delay in trial cannot be said to be fettered by Section 37 of the Act, given the imperative of Section 436A (that requires the accused to be granted bail if the trial is not concluded within specified period), which is applicable to offences under the NDPS Act too.” It granted bail to one Md Muslim, alias Hussain, who had been in jail for more than seven years after being arrested on the basis of a statement made by one of the four accused nabbed with 4 kg of ganja in Delhi.
The Bench lamented the overcrowding of jails and the appalling living conditions of prisoners. Maintaining that laws imposing stringent conditions for the grant of bail may be necessary in public interest, it said if trials were not concluded in time, the injustice wrecked on the individual would be immeasurable.
The court emphasised that a literal interpretation of the conditions prescribed under Section 37 — that states the court should be satisfied that the accused is not guilty and would not commit any offence — would effectively make grant of bail impossible.
While noting that the validity of Section 37 of the Act and similar provisions — Section 43D (5) of the UAPA and Section 45 of the PMLA — has been upheld, the top court sought to highlight that such provisions restricting judicial discretion in the grant of bail were enacted on the basis that trials would be concluded swiftly.
Bail for Hussain jailed for 7 years
- The SC granted bail to Md Muslim, alias Hussain, who was in jail for seven years
- Was arrested on the basis of a statement by accused nabbed with 4 kg ganja in Delhi
- Top court said despite stringent conditions, bail can’t be denied if trial delayed inordinately
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