Bikramjit Singh v. The State of Punjab
Criminal Appeal No. 667 of 2020 (@Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No. 2922 of 2020
Decided on 12.10.2020
Bench: R.F. Nariman, Navin Sinha, K.M. Joseph, JJ.
The appellant-accused was remanded to custody by the Sub-divisional magistrate. He filed an application for default bail before the Sub-divisional magistrate after the expiry of 90 days in custody. His bail application was dismissed by the Sub-divisional magistrate on the ground that the time of custody has been increased from 90 days to 180 days under Section 167 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) as amended by Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA). This order was set aside by the Special Court which observed that the Special Court alone has the jurisdiction to extend the time for custody to 180 days under the first proviso of Section 43-D(2)(b) of UAPA. The plea for default bail was refused by special court as well.
The above order of the Special Court was later set aside by the Punjab & Haryana High Court. The court held that when the probe is being conducted by the State Police then the Magistrate has power to extend the period of investigation upto 180 days under Section 167(2) CrPC read with Section 43(a) of UAPA. High Court also observed that when the investigation is being conducted by an agency under the NIA Act then this power of extending the time to 180 days would be exercised by the Special Court. No relief with regard to default bail was given in the High Court as well. Then the appeal was made to the Supreme Court challenging the ruling of High Court.
The contention of the appellant-accused was that his right to default bail is not extinguished by filing of the charge sheet.
Issue: Is the right to default bail extinguished by filing of the charge sheet?
Held: Supreme Court allowed the appeal and while granting default bail it observed that the accused gets an indefeasible right to ‘default bail’ if he makes an application for default bail after the maximum period of investigation of an offence is over and before the charge sheet is filed. It was held that “So long as an application has been made for default bail on expiry of the stated period before time is further extended to the maximum period of 180 days, default bail, being an indefeasible right of the accused under the first proviso o Section 167(2) kicks in and must be granted.”
The court held that the right to default bail is not merely a statutory right under the first proviso of Section 167(2) CrPC, but it is a part of the procedure established by law under Article 21 of the Constitution. It is a fundamental right granted to an accused person to be released on bail once the conditions of Section 167(2) are fulfilled.
The Court also held that the Special Court alone has the jurisdiction to extend time upto 180 days under the first proviso of Section 43-D (2) (b) of UAPA. And all offences under the UAPA are to be tried exclusively by the Special Court set up under the NIA Act whether investigated by the NIA of the state police.
[Right to default bail: CrPC provides through Section 167(2) that the detention of the accused person cannot be authorised beyond a statutory period prescribed to complete the investigation. Ordinarily the statutory period to complete investigation and filing of charge sheet is maximum of 90 days in offences punishable by life imprisonment or death. But for the offences under UAPA this period of 90 days is extendable upto 180 days.]