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An accused must be allowed to prepare his defence adequately has also to be considered by the court : High Court of Meghalaya

It is well settled that the High Court, or for that matter all Courts dealing with bail jurisdiction are called upon to exercise its discretion judiciously, cautiously and in strict compliance with the basic principles as upheld by the High Court of Meghalaya through the learned bench led by Justice W. Diengdoh in the case of Smti. Aibakor Kharbuli Vs. State of Meghalaya (BA. No. 6 of 2021).

The brief facts of the case are that an FIR was lodged by one Shri Taining Donbor Nongrang to the effect that his sister aged about 16 years who was working as a helper in the house of the accused was molested by the accused since the year 2020. The said FIR was registered at the Mawlai Police Station as Mawlai under Section 506 IPC r/w Sections 7/8 POCSO Act, whereupon on coming to learn of the said FIR, the accused surrendered before the concerned police station and on being sent for medical examination, he tested positive for COVID-19 and was quarantine at the Youth Hostel, Shillong. He was thereafter remanded to judicial custody and is still under custody till date. It is also stated that the charge sheet has already been filed with the I/O indicating that a prima facie case under Section 9(i) /10 POCSO Act r/w Section 506 IPC is made out against the accused.

Mr. K. Ch. Gautam, learned counsel for the applicant has submitted that the accused had surrendered before the Court and was arrested and is now in judicial custody for more than two months. A bail application was moved before the Court below, but the same was rejected citing Section 29 of the POCSO Act and in the meantime, the charge sheet has been filed. Pressing for an order to release the accused on bail, Mr. Gautam has submitted that the rigors of POCSO are very strict and as such, if the accused is kept in custody and not allowed to go on bail to defend his case, he will suffer irreparable injury. However, if enlarged on bail, he is willing to abide with the strictest of conditions imposed by this Court and will provide sufficient surety in this regard.

Mr. H. Abraham, learned GA appearing on behalf of the State respondent has strongly opposed this bail application submitting that the offence involved are very serious and more particularly since the matter has already been charge sheeted, the trial can be expedited. However, bail at this stage may not be granted.

After hearing the learned counsels for respective parties, the Court held, “Though this Court is in respectful with proposition of law on the aspects of Section 29 of the POCSO Act, however in the context of the case in hand, this would not help the accused as the specific order of the learned Special Court(POCSO) in this regard has not been specifically assailed and could not have been done so in this instant application. In view of the above, this Court is of the considered opinion that the accused person can be enlarged on bail with certain conditions.”

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Judgment reviewed by Vandana Ragwani

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