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 NDPS Act says the court can grant bail to an accused only when it’s satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that he’s not guilty of such offence and that he’s unlikely to commit any offence while on bail.
However, a Bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Dipankar Dutta said, “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 (which 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 ganja in Delhi.
The Bench lamented overcrowding of jails and appalling living conditions of prisoners.
Maintaining that laws imposing stringent conditions for 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 top court emphasised that a literal interpretation of the conditions prescribed under Section 37 that—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 NDPS Act and similar other provisions—Section 43D(5) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967 and Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 has been upheld, the top court sought to highlight that such stringent provisions restricting judicial discretion in grant of bail were enacted on the basis that trials would be concluded swiftly.
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