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Courts should not enlarge history sheeter accused on bail with a blinkered vision: Supreme Court

There is no doubt that liberty is important, even that of a person charged with crime but it is important for the courts to recognise the potential threat to the life and liberty of victims/witnesses, if such accused is released on bail. This was said in the case of Sudha Singh vs The State Of Uttar Pradesh [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 448 OF 2021] by Chief Justice S.A Bobde, Justice A.S. Bopanna, and Justice V. Ramasubramanian in the Supreme Court. 

The facts of the case are that the High Court simply ignored the antecedents of the accused and the potential to repeat his acts by organising his criminal activities and acted on liberal terms by granting bail to the accused who has been arrested with respect to the offence punishable under Section 3 (1) of the U.P. Gangster and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986. Assailing the order of the High Court, the wife of the deceased victim filed a Criminal appeal

The appellant contended that the conduct of the accused during the trial of the case has been one of non cooperation, by not cross examining the witnesses first, then praying for their recall and then threatening witnesses through his henchmen. In fact, the conduct of the accused impelled the Sessions court to direct the police to provide security in the court during the trial and provide security to the witnesses.

It is also contended by the appellant that the grant of bail in a routine manner to gangsters, has had an adverse effect in the past, upon the law and order situation. The appellant cites the example of a person who was prosecuted in connection with 64 criminal cases which included cases of murders, offences of dacoity, criminal intimidation, extortion and offences under the UP-Gangster Act, etc., but who was released on bail. Ultimately, when a police team went to apprehend him in a case, allegedly 8 policemen were killed and many grievously injured. Therefore, the appellant contends that courts must be extremely careful in releasing of history sheeters who have been charged with serious offences like murder, rape or other kinds of bodily harms several times

The Court referred to the case of In Ash Mohammad v Shiv Raj Singh [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.  1456  OF 2012] wherein this Court observed that “when citizens were scared to lead a peaceful life and heinous offences were obstructions in the establishment of a well-ordered society, the courts play an even more important role, and the burden is heavy. It emphasized on the need to have a proper analysis of the criminal antecedents of the accused”

After analysing the facts of the case in the light of the above judgment, the Court said that, “We find in this case that the high court has overlooked several aspects, such as the potential threat to witnesses, forcing the trial court to grant protection. It is necessary for courts to consider the impact that release of such persons on bail will have on the witnesses yet to be examined and the innocent members of the family of the victim who might be the next victims”. Hence, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the order of High Court granting bail to the accused.

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