Supreme Court: Courts Must Consider Bail When Trial Is Unnecessarily Delayed for the Accused

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Published on: October 31, 2023 at 00:06 IST

The Supreme Court, in a recent judgment refusing bail to former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in the Delhi liquor policy scam case, emphasized that detention or imprisonment before a verdict of guilt should not be a form of punishment without a proper trial.

The Court underscored the right to a speedy trial as a fundamental right within the scope of Article 21 of the Constitution, stating that if the trial is inordinately delayed through no fault of the accused, the court should exercise its authority to grant bail.

The Court stressed that the constitutional mandate represents a higher law and a fundamental right of a person charged with an offense but not yet convicted, ensuring a swift trial.

In this context, the bench, comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti, outlined specific factors to be considered for granting bail:

  1. Detention or imprisonment prior to a guilty verdict should not serve as a punishment in the absence of a proper trial.
  2. If the trial becomes protracted despite assurances from the prosecution, and it becomes evident that the case will not be decided in a foreseeable time, a bail application may be considered meritorious.
  3. Economic offenses, though significant, should not be equated with offenses carrying severe penalties such as death, life imprisonment, or sentences exceeding ten years, such as offenses under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, murder, rape, dacoity, kidnapping for ransom, mass violence, and similar offenses.
  4. The right to bail in cases of delay and prolonged incarceration, contingent on the nature of the allegations, should be interpreted within Section 439 of the Code and Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
  5. When the trial faces unwarranted delays that are not the fault of the accused, the court, unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary, should be inclined to grant bail, especially in cases where the trial is expected to take years.

The Supreme Court specified that if the trial does not proceed in a speedy manner, as assured by the prosecution, Manish Sisodia will be eligible to reapply for bail in three months. The Court’s verdict came with the assurance given by the prosecution that they would conclude the trial within the next six to eight months.

Manish Sisodia, a leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), has been in custody since February, under investigation by both the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Directorate of Enforcement (ED). The Supreme Court’s decision was delivered in response to Sisodia’s appeals challenging the denial of bail by the Delhi High Court in both the CBI and ED cases.

Case Details: Manish Sisodia v. Central Bureau of Investigation | Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 8167 of 2023

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