Prosecutor cannot file a final report to defeat the default bail by the accused: Supreme Court

In the case of M. Ravindran versus The Intelligence Officer [S.L.P. (Criminal) No. 2333 of 2020], the Supreme Court of India observed that the right of the defaulter to default bail was enforceable even if the charge sheet or report seeking the extension of time was subsequently filed by the petitioner. The remarkable judgement was passed by the bench comprising Justice Umesh Lalit, Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Justice Vineet Saran who passed this remarkable judgement that where the accused has already applied for default bail, the Prosecutor cannot defeat the enforcement of his indefeasible right by subsequently filing a final report, additional complaint or report seeking extension of time.

The appellant was under custody for the offence punishable under Section 8 (c) read with Sections 22(c),23(c), 25A and 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (‘NDPS Act’). After completion of 180 days from the remand, the applicant filed a bail application under section 167(2) of the CrPC before the special court for the exclusive trial of cases under the NDPS Act, on the ground that the investigation was not complete and the charge sheet had not yet been filed and was granted bail by the trial court. The respondent prayed before the Madras High Court to cancel the bail and the high court ordered the same.

The appellant had duly completed his 180 days of tenure by the Gregorian calendar so the compulsory bail should be granted to him. This court recalled what was told in the section 167 (2) and said that “as it is granted on account of the default of the   investigating   agency   in   not   completing   the   investigation within the prescribed time, irrespective of the merits of the case.” Also as per the section 36A of the NDPS Act the modifications could be done stating that if the investigation needs any extension of date, it would be allowed by the court but in the present case the Public Prosecutor did not file any such report within the 180 days for seeking extension of time up as it was required in this case.

The court relied on the judgement disposed in the case of Ravi Prakash Singh @ Arvind Singh v. State of Bihar (2015) 8 SCC 340 that, “has   ruled   that   while   computing   the   period   under Section   167(2), the   day   on   which   accused   was   remanded   to judicial   custody   has   to   be   excluded   and   the   day   on   which challan/charge sheet is filed in the court has to be included” and in the present case the applicant waited for a time period of 180 days before the complainant could file against him.

The court in the catena of judgement said that “The  right   to  be  released on  default  bail continues   to   remain   enforceable   if   the   accused has   applied   for   such   bail,   notwithstanding pendency of the bail application; or subsequent filing   of   the   charge sheet   or   a   report   seeking extension of time by the prosecution before the Court;   or   filing   of   the   charge sheet   during   the interregnum when challenge to the rejection of the bail application is pending before a higher Court.  However, where the accused fails to apply for default bail when the right accrues to him, and subsequently a charge sheet, additional complaint or a report seeking extension of time is preferred before   the   Magistrate, the   right   to   default   bail 54 would be extinguished.”

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