New Delhi: The nationwide lockdown announced by the Centre is not similar to the proclamation of Emergency, and the right of an accused to bail cannot be curtailed when police has failed to file charge sheet within the prescribed time, the Supreme Court has said.
The SC observation came during the hearing of an appeal against a Madras High Court order to reject the bail application of the petitioner.
An apex court bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and V Ramasubramanian said that earlier court order that the restrictions, which have been imposed during the period of lockdown by the Centre, should not give the right to an accused to pray for grant of default bail even though charge sheet has not been filed within the prescribed time under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure is 'clearly erroneous" and hence not in accordance with law.
Citing the ADM Jabalpur case, the bench noted that the right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be suspended even in an Emergency.
"The claim of the prosecution that by order of this court dated March 23, the period for filing of charge sheet under Section 167 CrPC stands extended is specifically rejected," said the top court.
The bench noted that it is of the clear opinion that the single judge erred in holding that the lockdown announced by the Centre is akin to the proclamation of Emergency.
The bench noted that no restrictions imposed during the lockdown shall operate as restriction on the rights of an accused, as protected by Section 167 (2) regarding his indefeasible right to get default bail on non-submission of charge sheet within prescribed time.
"The contrary view taken by single judge in the impugned judgment is not only erroneous but also sends wrong signals to the State and the prosecution, emboldening them to act in breach of liberty of a person," said the bench.
The top court set aside the High Court judgment and directed that appellant be released on default bail subject to furnishing a personal bond of Rs 10,000 with two sureties to the satisfaction of the trial court.