“Court Not Supposed To Act As Agent Of Prosecution”: Orissa High Court
The high court of Orissa passed a judgment on 11 April 2023,has criticised a Magistrate and a Sessions Judge for rejecting default bail of two persons accused of murder, despite the fact that the chargesheet was not filed before the Court within the stipulated statutory period, in the case of Raja @ Raj Kishore Behera & Anr. v. State of Odisha (CRLMC No. 343 of 2023), passed by the Single Judge Bench of Justice Sashikanta Mishra.
Facts of the Case
On July 11, 2022, the petitioners were arrested and put in judicial detention. Their bail application was also denied on the same day. On 11.11.2022, the matter was set for hearing on an application for release on default bail made by them under Section 167(2) of the CrPC, on the grounds that the chargesheet had not been produced even after the mandatory limit of 120 days had expired. The Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) discovered that the investigating officer had submitted a chargesheet on 05.11.2022, but it had not been brought before the Court for whatever reason. As a result, he directed the Court Sub-Inspector (CSI) to immediately place the chargesheet in open court. Following that, a CSI staff member placed the chargesheet in front of both sides. After reviewing the chargesheet, the JMFC determined that it had been submitted on 05.11.2022 but had not been brought before the Court due to laches and lapses on the part of CSI staff, and thus the accused persons’ right to statutory release had expired. They complained to the Court of Sessions, noting the accrual of an indefeasible right to default bail. However, the Sessions Judge agreed with the JMFC’s conclusion that because the chargesheet was presented by the I.O. on 05.11.2022, but was not placed before the Court, the accused persons’ rights to default bail were terminated. As a result, the application was denied.
The Court noted that, despite acknowledging that the chargesheet could not be presented before the Court in time due to laches and lapses on the part of CSI staff, the JMFC went above and beyond his brief to somehow condone the prosecution’s failure by calling for the chargesheet that had not been placed before him. According to Justice Mishra, the JMFC could not have taken such an immoral stance that violated the accused persons’ valuable rights. Above all, he was startled that the Sessions Judge, while being a high judicial authority, could not understand the idea of law.
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY HARSHEEN KAUR LUTHRA, RGNUL, PUNJAB