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Bail to be issued on merits and on the ground of prolonged incarceration, which infringes his right to life and personal liberty : Bombay High Court

Trial decides the fate of the accused as either guilty or innocent, however an accused shouldn’t be incarcerated unjustly for a long period of time awaiting trial before being convicted.  This was held in the judgment passed by a two bench judge comprising JUSTICES S.S. SHINDE & N.J. JAMADAR in the matter Iqbal Ahmed Kabir Ahmed V. The State of Maharashtra (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.355 OF 2021) dealt with an issue where the petitioner filed appeal under section 21 of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 (NIA Act) is directed against an order dated 27th May, 2019 passed by the learned Special Judge on an application whereby the said application for bail came to be rejected.

The appellant has been registered by NIA for the offences punishable under section 120B and 471 of Indian Penal Code and sections 13, 16, 18, 18B, 20, 38 and 39 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and section 4, 5 and 6 of the Explosives Substances Act, 1908 (the Explosives Act).

In the backdrop of the aforesaid nature of the accusations, the learned Special Judge was persuaded to reject the prayer for release on bail.

The counsel for the appellant urged that the learned special Judge committed a manifest error in negating the prayer for bail. According to Mr. Mihir Desai, the learned special Judge fell in error in not properly appreciating the role attributed to accused No. 3.

After hearing both the parties, the Hon’ble Bombay High court allowed the petition as they believed that By any standard, it is very unlikely that the trial would be concluded in a reasonable period and that the further incarceration of the appellant, in the face of extremely unlikely situation of the trial being completed in near future, would be in negation of the protection of life and personal liberty under Article 21. The denial of bail, in such circumstances would render the procedure not only unreasonable but unconscionable as well. It also held that in the right to speedy trial, in the prosecutions where the special enactments restrict the powers of the Court to grant bail, faces a competing claim of the interest of society and security of State. In such prosecutions, if the trials are not concluded expeditiously, the procedure which deprives the personal liberty for an inordinate period is then put to the test of fairness and reasonableness, envisaged by Article 21 of the Constitution. Where the period of incarceration awaiting adjudication of guilt become unduly long, the right to life and the protection of fair and reasonable procedure, envisaged by Article 21, are jeopardized.

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