New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday said deprivation of liberty cannot be unduly long, as it granted bail to a Maharashtra-based Bengali engineer, Ashim Kumar Haranath Bhattacharya, accused of helping Maoists to manufacture a rocket launcher.
A bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Abhay S. Oka said: “While deprivation of personal liberty for some period may not be avoidable, period of deprivation pending trial/appeal cannot be unduly long. At the same time, timely delivery of justice is part of human rights and denial of speedy justice is a threat to public confidence in the administration of justice.”
The bench noted that the appellant was 74 years of age and he was arrested in July 2012.
“It is clearly demonstrated from the instant case that after the charge sheet came to be filed in the year 2012, charges have been framed in June 2019 and looking to the voluminous record and number of the prosecution witnesses which are to be examined, it may take its own time to conclude and indeed, the undertrial prisoner cannot be detained for such a long period of incarceration noticed by us in the instant case,” it said.
“Once it is obvious that a timely trial would not be possible and the accused has suffered incarceration for a significant period of time, the courts would ordinarily be obligated to enlarge him on bail,” it said.
The apex court pointed out that though charges against accused are serious, but it needs to be balanced with factors like the period of incarceration undergone and the likelihood period within which the trial is expected to be completed.
The top court also directed the Centre and West Bengal government to ensure setting up of more designated special courts in the state for day-to-day trials.
“This court has consistently observed in its numerous judgments that the liberty guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution would cover within its protective ambit not only due procedure and fairness but also access to justice and a speedy trial is imperative and the undertrials cannot indefinitely be detained pending trial,” it said.
The top court also directed thee Centre to take up the matter with the state government after consultation with the Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, for setting up more special courts for speedy trial in such cases.