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Madras High Court: Article 25 Grants Undertrial Right to Attend Father’s Funeral

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Published on: February 12, 2024 at 11:47 IST

In a special sitting on Sunday, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court addressed the anticipatory bail plea of an undertrial facing charges under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

The undertrial sought permission to attend his father’s funeral. While the court declined bail, it recognized the right to participate in the funeral ceremony as part of Article 25 of the Constitution, allowing the undertrial to attend his father’s last rites.

Although the court firmly rejected the idea of granting bail or interim bail, it acknowledged that the right to participate in a funeral falls within the ambit of Article 25.

Justice GR Swaminathan stated that prisoners, including under-trials, can invoke this right, subject to the prevailing situation and exceptional circumstances.

Justice Swaminathan emphasized that Article 25 does not distinguish between free individuals and prisoners, and the petitioner, being a Hindu, had religious obligations to fulfill. The court invoked its inherent powers under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to allow the undertrial to attend the funeral and the 16th-day ceremony.

The Court took into account the petitioner’s religious responsibilities, highlighting the need for due regard for matters of religion.

While the Court could not grant bail, it issued a directive to the Superintendent of Central Prison, Madurai, to facilitate the undertrial’s participation in his father’s funeral. The court allowed him to be temporarily taken out of prison on Sunday and brought back on Monday, ensuring his participation in the 16th-day ceremony while maintaining privacy.

The petitioner, S Gurumoorthi, faced charges under the NDPS Act and was in judicial custody. Despite the court’s refusal to grant bail or interim bail due to the quantity of substances involved and the petitioner’s previous cases, it recognized the fundamental rights of the undertrial, ensuring his right to attend his father’s last rites.

Case Title: S Gurumoorthi v State