Sunday, 18 October 2020

Whether all UAPA Offences Investigated By NIA Or State Police Are Exclusively Triable By 'Special Courts?

 It will be seen that the aforesaid notification has been issued under

Section 22(1) of the NIA Act. What is important to note is that under

Section 22(2)(ii), reference to the Central Agency in Section 13(1) is to

be construed as a reference to the investigation agency of the State Government – namely, the State police in this case. Thereafter, what is

important to note is that notwithstanding anything contained in the

Code, the jurisdiction conferred on a Special Court shall, until a

Special Court is designated by the State Government, be exercised

only by the Court of Sessions of the Division in which such offence has

been committed vide sub-section (3) of Section 22; and by sub-section

(4) of Section 22, on and from the date on which the Special Court is

designated by the State Government, the trial of any offence

investigated by the State Government under the provisions of the NIA Act shall stand transferred to that Court on and from the date on which it is designated.

19.Section 13(1) of the NIA Act, which again begins with a non-obstante

clause which is notwithstanding anything contained in the Code, read

with Section 22(2)(ii), states that every scheduled offence that is

investigated by the investigation agency of the State Government is to

be tried exclusively by the Special Court within whose local jurisdiction

it was committed. 

“The Court”,  when read with the extended definition contained in Section 2(1)(d) of the UAPA, now speaks of the Special Court constituted under Section 22 of the NIA Act. What becomes clear, therefore, from a reading of these provisions is that for all offences under the UAPA, the Special Court alone has exclusive jurisdiction to try such offences. This becomes even clearer on a reading of Section 16 of the NIA Act which

makes it clear that the Special Court may take cognizance of an

offence without the accused being committed to it for trial upon receipt

of a complaint of facts or upon a police report of such facts. What is

equally clear from a reading of Section 16(2) of the NIA Act is that

even though offences may be punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years, the Special Court alone is to try such offence –

albeit in a summary way if it thinks it fit to do so. On a conspectus of

the abovementioned provisions, Section 13 read with Section 22(2)(ii)

of the NIA Act, in particular, the argument of the learned counsel

appearing on behalf of the State of Punjab based on Section 10 of the

said Act has no legs to stand on since the Special Court has exclusive

jurisdiction over every Scheduled Offence investigated by the

investigating agency of the State.

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 667 OF 2020


BIKRAMJIT SINGH  Vs THE STATE OF PUNJAB 


Author: R.F. Nariman, J.

Dated: October 12, 2020.

1. Leave granted.

2. In an F.I.R dated 18.11.2018, involving Sections 302, 307, 452, 427,

341, 34 of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 25 of the Arms Act,

1959, Sections 3, 4, 5, 6 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908 and

Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, it was

stated as follows:

“I am a resident of above address and doing the business

of furniture at Nehru Complex, Amritsar. I do my religious

services in the Nirankari Bhawan at Rajasansi every

Sunday. Today, i.e, on 18.11.2018, Satsang was going on

at Satsang Bhawan, where about 200 Satsangis were

present. At about 11.30 a.m., I along with my companion

Gagandeep Singh son of Balwinder Singh, resident of

1

Gumtala, was doing the duty of a Security Guard on the

main gate, when two young boys came there on a Pulsar

Motor Cycle without number of Black shade. Out of them,

one had worn Jean and Jacket and was having turban on

his head and he has muffled his face with a cloth of check.

He went inside and the other young boy, who was wearing

Kurta, Pyjama and Jacket and had muffled his face with a

handkerchief, took out a Pistol from the fold of his Pyjama

and made us to stand together near the Bathroom. The

young boy who had gone inside the Satsang Hall threw a

Hand Grenade on the stage with his right hand. An

explosion took place and the above-said young boy took

out a Pistol and ran towards the gate. Both the young men

ran towards Village Adliwal on their Pulsar Motor Cycle.

Due to Grenade explosion, about 22 persons from the

Sangat sustained serious injuries. The other persons

arranged conveyance and carried the injured to IVY

Hospital, Amritsar and Guru Nanak Dev Hospital, Amritsar,

where Sukhdev Kumar son of Kans Raj, resident of Kohali,

now resident of Mirankot, aged about 45 years, Kuldeep

Singh son of Joginder Singh, resident of Bagga and

Sandeep Singh son of Amarjit Singh, resident of Ward No.

7, Rajasansi died in IVY Hospital, Amritsar. The above

young men by throwing a Hand Grenade on the Sangat,

have injured 22 persons seriously, out of which three

persons have died. Deterrent action be taken against the

above-mentioned accused. I have heard my statement. It is

correct.”

3. Pursuant to this F.I.R, the Punjab State Police apprehended the

Appellant, one Bikramjit Singh, aged 26 years, on 22.11.2018, on

which date he was remanded to custody by the learned Sub-Divisional

Magistrate. After 90 days in custody, which expired on 21.02.2019, an

application for default bail was made to the Sub-Divisional Judicial

Magistrate, Ajnala. This application was dismissed on 25.02.2019 on

2

the ground that the learned Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate had, by

an order dated 13.02.2019, already extended time from 90 days to

180 days under Section 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

(hereinafter referred to as “the Code”) as amended by the Unlawful

Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (hereinafter referred to as “UAPA”) –

See Section 43-D(2). However, this Order was challenged by way of a

revision petition by the Appellant and his co-accused, which revision

succeeded by an order dated 25.03.2019, by which the learned

Additional Sessions Judge being the Special Court set up under the

National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 (hereinafter referred to as the

“NIA Act”) held as follows:

“6. After hearing the Ld Counsel for revision petitioner and

Ld PP for State, I am of the view that since Ld PP has not

controverted the proposition of law, wherein it is provided

that Ilaqa Magistrate has no jurisdiction to entertain any

application for extension the period of investigation or

granting bail u/s 167 (2) Cr.P.C in default of presentation of

Challan u/s 45 D (2) Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act

1967) and in view of the Notification supra passed by

Government of Punjab, to deal with the cases of unlawful

activities act, court of session or court of Additional Session

Judge, in every district has been designated to try the said

cases, so the application for seeking extension of time for

filing challan was not maintainable before Ilaqa magistrate.

7. Therefore, in view of the said notification as well as the

case laws referred by the Ld Counsel for revision petitioner,

only this court being special designated court was

competent to pass an order on any application moved u/s

45(D) (2) Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967. It

means, Ilaqa Magistrate was not competent to pass any

order on any such application. In case the same has been

filed and passed i.e. without its jurisdiction. So because of

the said reason order passed by Ilaqa magistrate is not

sustainable in the eyes of law and the same is liable to be

set aside by way of acceptance of this revision petition.

Accordingly this revision is allowed and order of Ilaqa

magistrate dated 13.02.2019 is set aside. Trial court record

along with copy of this order be sent back to the Trial Court

and file of this court be consigned to record room.”

4.One day later, on 26.03.2019, a charge sheet was filed before the

learned Special Judge after police investigation, in which Sections

302, 307, 452, 427, 341, 34 of the Indian Penal Code read with

Section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959, Sections 3, 4, 5, 6 of the Explosive

Substances Act, 1908 and Sections 13, 16, 18, 18-B and 20 of the

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 were invoked for offences

that were committed pursuant to investigation of the FIR lodged on

18.11.2018. Meanwhile, a revision petition that was filed against the

order dated 25.02.2019, was dismissed by the Special Judge on

11.04.2019 who, after noticing the order dated 25.03.2019 allowing

the revision petition against the order dated 13.02.2019 of the Judicial

Magistrate, yet refused to grant default bail as follows:

“10. No doubt, vide gazette notification issued by

Government of Punjab on 10.06.2014, the Session Judge

and first Additional Session Judge at each District Head

Quarters in the State are designated as special court for

the trial of offences of unlawful activities act. However, as

per the local arrangement, all the cases pertaining to

unlawful activities act are dealt in this court. So, being a

special court, this court is competent to directly receive the

challan or police report under section 173 Cr PC. Since the

challan has already been presented and in the judgement

titled as Abdul Aziz PV and Other vs National Investigation

Agency 2015

(1) RCR (Criminal) 239, it has been held that merely

because certain facets of the matter called for further

investigation, it does not deem such report anything other

than a final report, revisionist are not entitled to statutory

bail under section 167 (2) Cr PC.

xxx xxx xxx

12. Since Challan has already been presented, so revision

petitioner have lost their right for bail by way of default

under section 167 (2) Cr PC. Therefore there is no reason

to interfere in the order of Ilaqa Magistrate passed under

section 167 (2) Cr PC so this revision petition fails and is

dismissed. Consign file to the record room.”

5.On the same day i.e. 11.04.2019, an application for default bail dated

08.04.2019 was also dismissed. By the impugned judgment dated

30.10.2019, the High Court, after setting out Section 167 of the Code

of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and some of the provisions of the UAPA

and NIA Act, then arrived at the following conclusion:

“A joint interpretation of Section 167 (2) Cr.P.C. read with

Section 43 (d) UAP Act, Section 6, 13 & 22 of NIA Act

would show that in case the investigation is being carried

out by the State police, the Magistrate will have power

under Section 167 (2) Cr.P.C. read with Section 43 (a) of

UAP Act to extend the period of investigation upto 180

days and then, commit the case to the Court of Sessions

as per provisions of Section 209 Cr.P.C., whereas in case

the investigation is conducted by the agency under the NIA

Act, the power shall be exercised by the Special Court and

challan will be presented by the agency before the Special

Court.

xxx xxx xxx

It is not case of the petitioner that the investigation was

conducted by the agency under Section 6 of the NIA Act

and till committal of the case to the Court of Sessions, as

per Section 22 (3) of NIA Act, it cannot be said that the

Magistrate has no power and therefore, the order dated

25.03.2019 suffers from illegal infirmity.

The arguments raised by learned senior counsel for the

petitioner that the petitioner is entitled to default bail under

Section 167 (2) Cr.P.C., in view of judgment of the Hon'ble

Supreme Court in Sanjay Dutt's case (supra), is not

available, once the challan was presented by the

prosecution on 25.03.2019, as the application was filed by

the petitioner on the next day i.e. 26.03.2019

The Judge, Exclusive Court has recorded a well reasoned

finding that mere fact that sanction has not been granted

so far, is no ground to grant concession of bail, as it is

rightly held that besides the offence committed under the

UAP Act, the accused is also facing the trial for committing

the offence under Sections 302, 307, 452, 341, 427, 34

IPC read with Section 25/54/59 of Arms Act and Sections 3,

4, 5, & 6 of Explosive Act, for which no sanction is required

to prosecute the petitioner.

For the reasons recorded above and in view of judgment of

the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Hitendra Vishnu Thakur vs.

State of Maharashtra, 1994 (3) RCR (Crl.) 156, finding no

merit in the present petition, the same is dismissed.”

6. Shri Colin Gonsalves, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of

the Appellant, referred to both the enactments as aforesaid in copious

detail and stressed the fact that once the Special Court had been set

up as an exclusive Court to try all offences under the UAPA, such

offences being scheduled offences relatable to the NIA Act, it was the

Special Court alone which had exclusive jurisdiction to extend the

period of 90 days to 180 days under Section 43-D (2)(b) of the UAPA.

This being the case, on an application having been made prior to the

filing of the charge sheet for default bail, his contention was that the


indefeasible right to default bail arose immediately after 21.02.2019,

when the 90 day period was over. An order that is passed without

jurisdiction by the learned Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate dated

13.02.2019, had been corrected by the learned Additional Sessions

Judge/Special Court vide the order dated 25.03.2019, as a result of

which his right to default bail sprung into action before filing of the

charge sheet dated 26.03.2019. He, therefore, assailed the High

Court judgment on both counts – Firstly, that the exclusive jurisdiction

to extend time vested only in the Special Court and not in the Ilaqa

Magistrate, despite the fact that it was the State Police Agency that

investigated these offences. Secondly, he also argued, relying upon a

number of judgments, that the Appellant’s right to default bail was not

extinguished by the filing of the charge sheet dated 26.03.2019, as

was incorrectly held by the High Court.

7. Smt. Jaspreet Gogia, learned Advocate who appeared on behalf of the

State of Punjab, also took us through the provisions of both the

aforesaid enactments. She stressed in particular Section 10 of the NIA

Act, stating that nothing in the said Act would affect the powers of the

State Government to investigate and prosecute any scheduled

offence. She also stressed the fact that the entire investigation was

done only by the State Police and not by the National Investigation

Agency. This being the case, she argued that the Ilaqa Magistrate had

jurisdiction to extend time, and having so extended time on

13.02.2019, any application for default bail after the 90 day period was

over i.e. after 21.02.2019 had necessarily to be dismissed. She also

argued that the first application for default bail which was filed on or

before 25.03.2019, had spent its force, having been dismissed, and

that the application dated 08.04.2019 filed for default bail was clearly

after 26.03.2019, when the charge sheet was filed and, therefore, was

correctly dismissed by the order of the learned Special Judge dated

11.04.2019.

8. Having heard learned counsel for the parties, it is important at this

stage to set out all the relevant provisions of the three enactments that

we are directly concerned with – the Code, UAPA and NIA Act.

9. It is important to note that the expression “Court” is not defined by the

Code. On the other hand, Section 6 of the Code refers to classes of

Criminal Courts as follows:

“6. Classes of Criminal Courts.

Besides the High Courts and the Courts constituted under

any law, other than this Code, there shall be, in every

State, the following classes of Criminal Courts, namely:

(i) Courts of Session;

(ii) Judicial Magistrates of the first class and, in any

metropolitan area, Metropolitan Magistrates;

(iii) Judicial Magistrates of the second class; and

(iv) Executive Magistrates.”


The Court of Sessions is then referred to as a Court that is established

by the State Government under Section 9(1) of the Code for every

Sessions Division.

10.Section 26 of the Code refers to Courts by which offences are triable.

We are concerned directly with Section 26(b) which states as follows:

“26. Courts by which offences are triable.

Subject to the other provisions of this Code,

xxx xxx xxx

(b) any offence under any other law shall, when any Court

is mentioned in this behalf in such law, be tried by such

Court and when no Court is so mentioned, may be tried by

(i) the High Court, or

(ii) any other Court by which such offence is shown in the

First Schedule to be triable.”

11.Section 167 of the Code makes it clear that whenever a person is

arrested and detained in custody, the time for investigation relating to

an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or

imprisonment for a term of not less than 10 years, cannot ordinarily be

beyond the period of 15 days, but is extendable, on the Magistrate

being satisfied that adequate grounds exist for so doing, to a

maximum period of 90 days – See first proviso (a)(i) to Section 167(2)

of the Code. The said proviso goes on to state that the accused

person shall be released on bail if he is prepared to and does furnish

bail on expiry of the maximum period of 90 days, and every person so released on bail be deemed to be so released under the provisions of Chapter XXXIII for the purposes of that Chapter.

12.The First Schedule to the Code then sets out at the fag end, in Part II

thereof, classification of offences against other laws as follows:

THE FIRST SCHEDULE

CLASSIFICATION OF OFFENCES

II.—CLASSIFICATION OF OFFENCES AGAINST OTHER

LAWS

Offence Cognizable

or noncognizable

Bailable or

nonbailable

By what

court

triable

If punishable with

death,

imprisonment for

life, or

imprisonment for

more than 7 years

Cognizable Nonbailable

Court of

Session

If punishable with

imprisonment for 3

years and upwards

and not more than

7 years

Ditto Ditto Magistrate

of first

class

If punishable with

imprisonment for

less than 3 years or

with fine only

Noncognizable

Bailable Any

Magistrate

13.The UAPA deals with “unlawful activity” and “unlawful association”, and

interdicts both unlawful activity and unlawful association as defined

under Sections 2(o) and 2(p). It further defines what are terrorist acts,

terrorist gangs and terrorists organisations under Section 2(k), 2(l) and

2(m) and proscribes each of these in offences which are than fleshed

10

out under its provisions. What is important from our point of view in this

case is the definition of “Court” in Section 2(1)(d) of UAPA which is as

follows:

“2. Definitions.-(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise

requires,-

xxx xxx xxx

(d) “court” means a criminal court having jurisdiction, under

the Code, to try offences under this Act and includes a

Special Court constituted under section 11 or under section

21 of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008”

Equally important is the provision contained in Section 43-D(2) of

UAPA, which is set out as follows:

“43-D. Modified application of certain provisions of the

Code.

xxx xxx xxx

(2) Section 167 of the Code shall apply in relation to a case

involving an offence punishable under this Act subject to

the modification that in sub-section (2),-

(a) the references to “fifteen days”, “ninety days” and

“sixty days”, wherever they occur, shall be construed as

references to “thirty days”, “ninety days” and “ninety

days” respectively; and

(b) after the proviso, the following provisos shall be

inserted, namely:—

“Provided further that if it is not possible to complete

the investigation within the said period of ninety days,

the Court may if it is satisfied with the report of the

Public Prosecutor indicating the progress of the

investigation and the specific reasons for the

detention of the accused beyond the said period of

ninety days, extend the said period up to one

hundred and eighty days:

Provided also that if the police officer making the

investigation under this Act, requests, for the

purposes of investigation, for police custody from

judicial custody of any person in judicial custody, he

shall file an affidavit stating the reasons for doing so

and shall also explain the delay, if any, for requesting

such police custody.””

14.A cursory reading of these provisions would show that the offences

under the UAPA under Sections 16, 17, 18, 18-A, 18-B, 19, 20, 22-B,

22-C and 23, being offences which contain maximum sentences of

over 7 years, would be exclusively triable by a Court of Sessions when

read with Part II of the First Schedule to the Code. It is only after the

NIA Act was enacted that the definition of “Court” was extended to

include Special Courts that were set up under Section 11 or Section

22 of the NIA Act.

15.When we come to the NIA Act, the Preamble of the said Act indicates

the thrust of the provisions of that Act as follows:

“An Act to constitute an investigation agency at the national

level to investigate and prosecute offences affecting the

sovereignty, security and integrity of India, security of State,

friendly relations with foreign States and offences under

Acts enacted to implement international treaties,

agreements, conventions and resolutions of the United

Nations, its agencies and other international organisations

and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

Under Section 2(g) “Scheduled Offence” is defined as follows:

“2. Definitions.- (1) In this Act, unless the context

otherwise requires,-

xxx xxx xxx

12

(g) “Scheduled Offence” means an offence specified in the

Schedule””

Section 2(h) defines “Special Court” as follows:

“2. Definitions.- (1) In this Act, unless the context

otherwise requires,-

xxx xxx xxx

(h) “Special Court” means a Special Court constituted

under section 11 or, as the case may be, under section 22”

16.Section 3 constitutes a National Investigation Agency which is a

special agency set up for prosecution of offences under the Acts

specified in the Schedule by the Central Government. It may be noted

that the UAPA is Item 2 of the said Schedule. Section 10, upon which

strong reliance is placed by the State, is as follows:

“10. Power of State Government to investigate

Scheduled Offences.—Save as otherwise provided in this

Act, nothing contained in this Act shall affect the powers of

the State Government to investigate and prosecute any

Scheduled Offence or other offences under any law for the

time being in force”

Sections 11 and 22 which speak of the power of the Central

Government and the State Government respectively, to designate

Courts of Sessions as Special Courts, are as follows:

“11. Power of Central Government to constitute Special

Courts.—

(1) The Central Government shall, by notification in the

Official Gazette, for the trial of Scheduled Offences,

constitute one or more Special Courts for such area or

areas, or for such case or class or group of cases, as may

be specified in the notification.

13

(2) Where any question arises as to the jurisdiction of any

Special Court, it shall be referred to the Central

Government whose decision in the matter shall be final.

(3) A Special Court shall be presided over by a judge to be

appointed by the Central Government on the

recommendation of the Chief Justice of the High Court.

(4) The Agency may make an application to the Chief

Justice of the High Court for appointment of a Judge to

preside over the Special Court.

(5) On receipt of an application under sub-section (4), the

Chief Justice shall, as soon as possible and not later than

seven days, recommend the name of a judge for being

appointed to preside over the Special Court.

(6) The Central Government may, if required, appoint an

additional judge or additional judges to the Special Court,

on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of the High

Court.

(7) A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a

judge or an additional judge of a Special Court unless he

is, immediately before such appointment, a Sessions

Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge in any State.

(8) For the removal of doubts, it is hereby provided that the

attainment, by a person appointed as a judge or an

additional judge of a Special Court, of the age of

superannuation under the rules applicable to him in the

service to which he belongs shall not affect his continuance

as such judge or additional judge and the Central

Government may by order direct that he shall continue as

judge until a specified date or until completion of the trial of

the case or cases before him as may be specified in that

order.

(9) Where any additional judge or additional judges is or

are appointed in a Special Court, the judge of the Special

Court may, from time to time, by general or special order, in

writing, provide for the distribution of business of the

Special Court among all judges including himself and the

additional judge or additional judges and also for the

disposal of urgent business in the event of his absence or

the absence of any additional judge.

14

22. Power of State Government to constitute Special

Courts.—

(1) The State Government may constitute one or more

Special Courts for the trial of offences under any or all the

enactments specified in the Schedule.

(2) The provisions of this Chapter shall apply to the Special

Courts constituted by the State Government under subsection

(1) and shall have effect subject to the following

modifications, namely—

(i) references to “Central Government” in sections 11 and

15 shall be construed as references to State Government;

(ii) reference to “Agency” in sub-section (1) of section 13

shall be construed as a reference to the “investigation

agency of the State Government”;

(iii) reference to “Attorney-General for India” in sub-section

(3) of section 13 shall be construed as reference to

“Advocate-General of the State”.

(3) The jurisdiction conferred by this Act on a Special Court

shall, until a Special Court is constituted by the State

Government under sub-section (1) in the case of any

offence punishable under this Act, notwithstanding anything

contained in the Code, be exercised by the Court of

Session of the division in which such offence has been

committed and it shall have all the powers and follow the

procedure provided under this Chapter.

(4) On and from the date when the Special Court is

constituted by the State Government the trial of any

offence investigated by the State Government under the

provisions of this Act, which would have been required to

be held before the Special Court, shall stand transferred to

that Court on the date on which it is constituted.”

Section 13 speaks of the jurisdiction of the Special Courts as follows:

“13. Jurisdiction of Special Courts.—

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code, every

Scheduled Offence investigated by the Agency shall be

tried only by the Special Court within whose local

jurisdiction it was committed.

(2) If, having regard to the exigencies of the situation

prevailing in a State if,—

(a) it is not possible to have a fair, impartial or speedy trial;

or

(b) it is not feasible to have the trial without occasioning the

breach of peace or grave risk to the safety of the accused,

the witnesses, the Public Prosecutor or a judge of the

Special Court or any of them; or

(c) it is not otherwise in the interests of justice, the

Supreme Court may transfer any case pending before a

Special Court to any other Special Court within that State

or in any other State and the High Court may transfer any

case pending before a Special Court situated in that State

to any other Special Court within the State.

(3) The Supreme Court or the High Court, as the case may

be, may act under this section either on the application of

the Central Government or a party interested and any such

application shall be made by motion, which shall, except

when the applicant is the Attorney-General for India, be

supported by an affidavit or affirmation.”

Section 14 clarifies that Special Courts may also try offences other

than the scheduled offences as follows:

“14. Powers of Special Courts with respect to other

offences.—

(1) When trying any offence, a Special Court may also try

any other offence with which the accused may, under the

Code be charged, at the same trial if the offence is

connected with such other offence.

(2) If, in the course of any trial under this Act of any

offence, it is found that the accused person has committed

any other offence under this Act or under any other law, the

Special Court may convict such person of such other

offence and pass any sentence or award punishment

authorised by this Act or, as the case may be, under such

other law.”


Section 16 is important and sets out the procedure and powers of

Special Courts as follows:

“16. Procedure and powers of Special Courts.—

(1) A Special Court may take cognizance of any offence,

without the accused being committed to it for trial, upon

receiving a complaint of facts that constitute such offence

or upon a police report of such facts.

(2) Where an offence triable by a Special Court is

punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding

three years or with fine or with both, the Special Court may,

notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1) of

section 260 or section 262 of the Code, try the offence in a

summary way in accordance with the procedure prescribed

in the Code and the provisions of sections 263 to 265 of

the Code shall, so far as may be, apply to such trial:

Provided that when, in the course of a summary trial under

this sub-section, it appears to the Special Court that the

nature of the case is such that it is not desirable to try it in a

summary way, the Special Court shall recall any witnesses

who may have been examined and proceed to re-hear the

case in the manner provided by the provisions of the Code

for the trial of such offence and the said provisions shall

apply to, and in relation to, a Special Court as they apply to

and in relation to a Magistrate:

Provided further that in the case of any conviction in a

summary trial under this section, it shall be lawful for a

Special Court to pass a sentence of imprisonment for a

term not exceeding one year and with fine which may

extend to five lakh rupees.

(3) Subject to the other provisions of this Act, a Special

Court shall, for the purpose of trial of any offence, have all

the powers of a Court of Session and shall try such offence

as if it were a Court of Session so far as may be in

accordance with the procedure prescribed in the Code for

the trial before a Court of Session.

(4) Subject to the other provisions of this Act, every case

transferred to a Special Court under sub-section (2) of

section 13 shall be dealt with as if such case had been

transferred under section 406 of the Code to such Special

Court.

(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code, but

subject to the provisions of section 299 of the Code, a

Special Court may, if it thinks fit and for reasons to be

recorded by it, proceed with the trial in the absence of the

accused or his pleader and record the evidence of any

witness, subject to the right of the accused to recall the

witness for cross-examination.”

17.The Scheme of the NIA Act is that offences under the enactments

contained to the Schedule to the Act are now to be tried exclusively by

Special Courts set up under that Act. These may be set up by the

Central Government under Section 11 or by the State Government

under Section 22 of the Act. On the facts of the present case, we are

concerned with Section 22 as Special Courts have been set up within

the State of Punjab by a notification dated 10.06.2014, which reads as

follows:

“PART III

GOVERNMENT OF PUNJAB

DEPARTMENT OF HOME AFFAIRS AND JUSTICE

(JUDICIAL-1 BRANCH)

NOTIFICATION

The 10th June, 2014

No. S.O. 141/C.A.34/2008/S.22/2014.- In exercise of the

powers conferred under sub-section(1) of section 22 of the

National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 (Central Act No. 34

of 2008), and all other powers enabling him in this behalf,

the Governor of Punjab, with the concurrence of Hon'ble

Chief Justice of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana,

Chandigarh, is pleased to constitute the courts of Sessions

Judge and the first Additional Sessions Judge (for the area

falling within their respective jurisdiction), at each district

headquarter in the State, to be the Special Courts, for the

trial of offences as specified in the Schedule appended to

the aforesaid Act, which are investigated by the State

police.”

18. It will be seen that the aforesaid notification has been issued under

Section 22(1) of the NIA Act. What is important to note is that under

Section 22(2)(ii), reference to the Central Agency in Section 13(1) is to

be construed as a reference to the investigation agency of the State

Government – namely, the State police in this case. Thereafter, what is

important to note is that notwithstanding anything contained in the

Code, the jurisdiction conferred on a Special Court shall, until a

Special Court is designated by the State Government, be exercised

only by the Court of Sessions of the Division in which such offence has

been committed vide sub-section (3) of Section 22; and by sub-section

(4) of Section 22, on and from the date on which the Special Court is

designated by the State Government, the trial of any offence

investigated by the State Government under the provisions of the NIA

Act shall stand transferred to that Court on and from the date on which

it is designated.

19.Section 13(1) of the NIA Act, which again begins with a non-obstante

clause which is notwithstanding anything contained in the Code, read

with Section 22(2)(ii), states that every scheduled offence that is

investigated by the investigation agency of the State Government is to

be tried exclusively by the Special Court within whose local jurisdiction

it was committed.

20.When these provisions are read along with Section 2(1)(d) and the

provisos in 43-D(2) of the UAPA, the Scheme of the two Acts, which

are to be read together, becomes crystal clear. Under the first proviso

in Section 43-D(2)(b), the 90 day period indicated by the first proviso

to Section 167(2) of the Code can be extended up to a maximum

period of 180 days if “the Court” is satisfied with the report of the public

prosecutor indicating progress of investigation and specific reasons for

detention of the accused beyond the period of 90 days. “The Court”,

when read with the extended definition contained in Section 2(1)(d) of

the UAPA, now speaks of the Special Court constituted under Section

22 of the NIA Act. What becomes clear, therefore, from a reading of

these provisions is that for all offences under the UAPA, the Special

Court alone has exclusive jurisdiction to try such offences. This

becomes even clearer on a reading of Section 16 of the NIA Act which

makes it clear that the Special Court may take cognizance of an

offence without the accused being committed to it for trial upon receipt

of a complaint of facts or upon a police report of such facts. What is

equally clear from a reading of Section 16(2) of the NIA Act is that

even though offences may be punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years, the Special Court alone is to try such offence –

albeit in a summary way if it thinks it fit to do so. On a conspectus of

the abovementioned provisions, Section 13 read with Section 22(2)(ii)

of the NIA Act, in particular, the argument of the learned counsel

appearing on behalf of the State of Punjab based on Section 10 of the

said Act has no legs to stand on since the Special Court has exclusive

jurisdiction over every Scheduled Offence investigated by the

investigating agency of the State.

21.Before the NIA Act was enacted, offences under the UAPA were of two

kinds – those with a maximum imprisonment of over 7 years, and

those with a maximum imprisonment of 7 years and under. Under the

Code as applicable to offences against other laws, offences having a

maximum sentence of 7 years and under are triable by the

Magistrate’s Courts, whereas offences having a maximum sentence of

above 7 years are triable by Courts of Sessions. This Scheme has

been completely done away with by the 2008 Act as all scheduled

offences i.e. all offences under the UAPA, whether investigated by the

National Investigation Agency or by the investigating agencies of the

State Government, are to be tried exclusively by Special Courts set up

under that Act. In the absence of any designated Court by notification

issued by either the Central Government or the State Government, the

fall back is upon the Court of Sessions alone. Thus, under the

aforesaid Scheme what becomes clear is that so far as all offences

under the UAPA are concerned, the Magistrate’s jurisdiction to extend time under the first proviso in Section 43-D(2)(b) is non-existent, “the Court” being either a Sessions Court, in the absence of a notification specifying a Special Court, or the Special Court itself. The impugned

judgment in arriving at the contrary conclusion is incorrect as it has

missed Section 22(2) read with Section 13 of the NIA Act. Also, the

impugned judgement has missed Section 16(1) of the NIA Act which

states that a Special Court may take cognizance of any offence

without the accused being committed to it for trial inter alia upon a

police report of such facts.

22.The second vexed question which arises on the facts of this case is

the question of grant of default bail. It has already been seen that once

the maximum period for investigation of an offence is over, under the

first proviso (a) to Section 167(2), the accused shall be released on

bail, this being an indefeasible right granted by the Code. The extent of

this indefeasible right has been the subject matter of a number of

judgments. A beginning may be made with the judgment in Hitendra

Vishnu Thakur v. State of Maharashtra (1994) 4 SCC 602, which

spoke of “default bail” under the provisions of the Terrorist and

Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (hereinafter referred to as

“TADA”) read with Section 167 of the Code as follows:

22

“19. Section 20(4) of TADA makes Section 167 of CrPC

applicable in relation to case involving an offence

punishable under TADA, subject to the modifications

specified therein…while clause (b) provided that reference

in sub-section (2) of Section 167 to ‘15 days’, ‘90 days’ and

‘60 days’ wherever they occur shall be construed as

reference to ‘60 days’, ‘one year’ and ‘one year’

respectively. This section was amended in 1993 by the

Amendment Act 43 of 1993 with effect from 22-5-1993 and

the period of ‘one year’ and ‘one year’ in clause (b) was

reduced to ‘180 days’ and ‘180 days’ respectively, by

modification of sub-section (2) of Section 167. After clause

(b) of sub-section (4) of Section 20 of TADA, another

clause (bb) was inserted which reads:

“(bb) in sub-section (2), after the proviso, the following

proviso shall be inserted, namely:—

‘Provided further that, if it is not possible to complete the

investigation within the said period of one hundred and

eighty days, the Designated Court shall extend the said

period up to one year, on the report of the Public

Prosecutor indicating the progress of the investigation and

the specific reasons for the detention of the accused

beyond the said period of one hundred and eighty days;

and’ ”

20. …Sub-section (2) of Section 167 of the Code lays down

that the Magistrate to whom the accused is forwarded may

authorise his detention in such custody, as he may think fit,

for a term specified in that section. The proviso to subsection

(2) fixes the outer limit within which the

investigation must be completed and in case the same is

not completed within the said prescribed period, the

accused would acquire a right to seek to be released on

bail and if he is prepared to and does furnish bail, the

Magistrate shall release him on bail and such release shall

be deemed to be grant of bail under Chapter XXXIII of the

Code of Criminal Procedure…Section 167 read with

Section 20(4) of TADA, thus, strictly speaking is not a

provision for “grant of bail” but deals with the maximum

period during which a person accused of an offence may

be kept in custody and detention to enable the investigating

agency to complete the investigation and file the charge-

23

sheet, if necessary, in the court. The proviso to Section

167(2) of the Code read with Section 20(4)(b) of TADA,

therefore, creates an indefeasible right in an accused

person on account of the ‘default’ by the investigating

agency in the completion of the investigation within the

maximum period prescribed or extended, as the case may

be, to seek an order for his release on bail. It is for this

reason that an order for release on bail under proviso (a) of

Section 167(2) of the Code read with Section 20(4) of

TADA is generally termed as an “order-on-default” as it is

granted on account of the default of the prosecution to

complete the investigation and file the challan within the

prescribed period. As a consequence of the amendment,

an accused after the expiry of 180 days from the date of his

arrest becomes entitled to bail irrespective of the nature of

the offence with which he is charged where the prosecution

fails to put up challan against him on completion of the

investigation. With the amendment of clause (b) of subsection

(4) of Section 20 read with the proviso to subsection

(2) of Section 167 of CrPC an indefeasible right to

be enlarged on bail accrues in favour of the accused if the

police fails to complete the investigation and put up a

challan against him in accordance with law under Section

173 CrPC. An obligation, in such a case, is cast upon the

court, when after the expiry of the maximum period during

which an accused could be kept in custody, to decline the

police request for further remand except in cases governed

by clause (bb) of Section 20(4). There is yet another

obligation also which is cast on the court and that is to

inform the accused of his right of being released on bail

and enable him to make an application in that behalf.

(Hussainara Khatoon case [Hussainara Khatoon v. Home

Secy., State of Bihar, (1980) 1 SCC 98 : 1980 SCC (Cri) 40

: AIR 1979 SC 1369] ). This legal position has been very

ably stated in Aslam Babalal Desai v. State of

Maharashtra [(1992) 4 SCC 272 : 1992 SCC (Cri) 870 : AIR

1993 SC 1] where speaking for the majority, Ahmadi, J.

referred with approval to the law laid down in Rajnikant

Jivanlal Patel v. Intelligence Officer, Narcotic Control

Bureau, New Delhi [(1989) 3 SCC 532 : 1989 SCC (Cri)

612 : AIR 1990 SC 71] wherein it was held that : (SCC p.

288, para 9)

24

“The right to bail under Section 167(2) proviso (a) thereto

is absolute. It is a legislative command and not court's

discretion. If the investigating agency fails to file chargesheet

before the expiry of 90/60 days, as the case may

be, the accused in custody should be released on bail.

But at that stage, merits of the case are not to be

examined. Not at all. In fact, the Magistrate has no power

to remand a person beyond the stipulated period of

90/60 days. He must pass an order of bail and

communicate the same to the accused to furnish the

requisite bail bonds.”

21. Thus, we find that once the period for filing the chargesheet

has expired and either no extension under clause

(bb) has been granted by the Designated Court or the

period of extension has also expired, the accused person

would be entitled to move an application for being admitted

to bail under sub-section (4) of Section 20 TADA read with

Section 167 of the Code and the Designated

Court shall release him on bail, if the accused seeks to be

so released and furnishes the requisite bail. We are not

impressed with the argument of the learned counsel for the

appellant that on the expiry of the period during which

investigation is required to be completed under Section

20(4) TADA read with Section 167 of the Code, the court

must release the accused on bail on its own motion even

without any application from an accused person on his

offering to furnish bail. In our opinion an accused is

required to make an application if he wishes to be released

on bail on account of the ‘default’ of the

investigating/prosecuting agency and once such an

application is made, the court should issue a notice to the

public prosecutor who may either show that the

prosecution has obtained the order for extension for

completion of investigation from the court under clause (bb)

or that the challan has been filed in the Designated Court

before the expiry of the prescribed period or even that the

prescribed period has actually not expired and thus resist

the grant of bail on the alleged ground of ‘default’. The

issuance of notice would avoid the possibility of an

accused obtaining an order of bail under the ‘default’

clause by either deliberately or inadvertently concealing

certain facts and would avoid multiplicity of proceedings. It

25

would, therefore, serve the ends of justice if both sides are

heard on a petition for grant of bail on account of the

prosecution's ‘default’… No other condition like the gravity

of the case, seriousness of the offence or character of the

offender etc. can weigh with the court at that stage to

refuse the grant of bail to an accused under sub-section (4)

of Section 20 TADA on account of the ‘default’ of the

prosecution.”

23. In the Constitution Bench judgment in Sanjay Dutt v. State through

CBI (1994) 5 SCC 410, one of the questions to be decided by the

Constitution Bench was the correct interpretation of Section 20(4)(bb)

of TADA indicating the nature of right of an accused to be released on

default bail. The enigmatic expression “if already not availed of” is

contained in paragraphs 48 of the aforesaid judgment as follows:

“48. We have no doubt that the common stance before us

of the nature of indefeasible right of the accused to be

released on bail by virtue of Section 20(4)(bb) is based on

a correct reading of the principle indicated in that decision.

The indefeasible right accruing to the accused in such a

situation is enforceable only prior to the filing of the challan

and it does not survive or remain enforceable on the

challan being filed, if already not availed of. Once the

challan has been filed, the question of grant of bail has to

be considered and decided only with reference to the

merits of the case under the provisions relating to grant of

bail to an accused after the filing of the challan. The

custody of the accused after the challan has been filed is

not governed by Section 167 but different provisions of the

Code of Criminal Procedure. If that right had accrued to the

accused but it remained unenforced till the filing of the

challan, then there is no question of its enforcement

thereafter since it is extinguished the moment challan is

filed because Section 167 CrPC ceases to apply. The

Division Bench also indicated that if there be such an

application of the accused for release on bail and also a

26

prayer for extension of time to complete the investigation

according to the proviso in Section 20(4)(bb), both of them

should be considered together. It is obvious that no bail can

be given even in such a case unless the prayer for

extension of the period is rejected. In short, the grant of bail

in such a situation is also subject to refusal of the prayer for

extension of time, if such a prayer is made. If the accused

applies for bail under this provision on expiry of the period

of 180 days or the extended period, as the case may be,

then he has to be released on bail forthwith. The accused,

so released on bail may be arrested and committed to

custody according to the provisions of the Code of Criminal

Procedure. It is settled by Constitution Bench decisions

that a petition seeking the writ of habeas corpus on the

ground of absence of a valid order of remand or detention

of the accused, has to be dismissed, if on the date of return

of the rule, the custody or detention is on the basis of a

valid order. (See Naranjan Singh Nathawan v. State of

Punjab [1952 SCR 395 : AIR 1952 SC 106 : 1952 Cri LJ

656] ; Ram Narayan Singh v. State of Delhi [1953 SCR 652

: AIR 1953 SC 277 : 1953 Cri LJ 1113] and A.K.

Gopalan v. Government of India [(1966) 2 SCR 427 : AIR

1966 SC 816 : 1966 Cri LJ 602] .)

xxx xxx xxx

53. As a result of the above discussion, our answers to the

three questions of law referred for our decision are as

under:

xxx xxx xxx

(2)(b) The “indefeasible right” of the accused to be released

on bail in accordance with Section 20(4)(bb) of the TADA

Act read with Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal

Procedure in default of completion of the investigation and

filing of the challan within the time allowed, as held

in Hitendra Vishnu Thakur [(1994) 4 SCC 602 : 1994 SCC

(Cri) 1087 : JT (1994) 4 SC 255] is a right which enures to,

and is enforceable by the accused only from the time of

default till the filing of the challan and it does not survive or

remain enforceable on the challan being filed. If the

accused applies for bail under this provision on expiry of

the period of 180 days or the extended period, as the case

27

may be, then he has to be released on bail forthwith. The

accused, so released on bail may be arrested and

committed to custody according to the provisions of the

Code of Criminal Procedure. The right of the accused to be

released on bail after filing of the challan, notwithstanding

the default in filing it within the time allowed, is governed

from the time of filing of the challan only by the provisions

relating to the grant of bail applicable at that stage.”

[Emphasis Supplied]

24.The question as to whether default bail can be granted once a charge

sheet is filed was authoritatively dealt with in a decision of a Three-

Judge Bench of this Court in Uday Mohanlal Acharya v. State of

Maharashtra (2001) 5 SCC 453. The majority judgment of G.B.

Pattanaik, J. reviewed the decisions of this Court and in particular the

enigmatic expression “if already not availed of” in Sanjay Dutt (supra).

The Court then held:

“13.…The crucial question that arises for consideration,

therefore, is what is the true meaning of the expression “if

already not availed of”? Does it mean that an accused files

an application for bail and offers his willingness for being

released on bail or does it mean that a bail order must be

passed, the accused must furnish the bail and get him

released on bail? In our considered opinion it would be

more in consonance with the legislative mandate to hold

that an accused must be held to have availed of his

indefeasible right, the moment he files an application for

being released on bail and offers to abide by the terms and

conditions of bail. To interpret the expression “availed of” to

mean actually being released on bail after furnishing the

necessary bail required would cause great injustice to the

accused and would defeat the very purpose of the proviso

to Section 167(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code and

further would make an illegal custody to be legal, inasmuch

as after the expiry of the stipulated period the Magistrate

28

had no further jurisdiction to remand and such custody of

the accused is without any valid order of remand. That

apart, when an accused files an application for bail

indicating his right to be released as no challan had been

filed within the specified period, there is no discretion left in

the Magistrate and the only thing he is required to find out

is whether the specified period under the statute has

elapsed or not, and whether a challan has been filed or not.

If the expression “availed of” is interpreted to mean that the

accused must factually be released on bail, then in a given

case where the Magistrate illegally refuses to pass an

order notwithstanding the maximum period stipulated in

Section 167 had expired, and yet no challan had been filed

then the accused could only move to the higher forum and

while the matter remains pending in the higher forum for

consideration, if the prosecution files a charge-sheet then

also the so-called right accruing to the accused because of

inaction on the part of the investigating agency would get

frustrated. Since the legislature has given its mandate it

would be the bounden duty of the court to enforce the

same and it would not be in the interest of justice to negate

the same by interpreting the expression “if not availed of” in

a manner which is capable of being abused by the

prosecution. A two-Judge Bench decision of this Court

in State of M.P. v. Rustam [1995 Supp (3) SCC 221 : 1995

SCC (Cri) 830] setting aside the order of grant of bail by

the High Court on a conclusion that on the date of the order

the prosecution had already submitted a police report and,

therefore, the right stood extinguished, in our considered

opinion, does not express the correct position in law of the

expression “if already not availed of”, used by the

Constitution Bench in Sanjay Dutt [(1994) 5 SCC 410 :

1994 SCC (Cri) 1433]…In the aforesaid premises, we are

of the considered opinion that an accused must be held to

have availed of his right flowing from the legislative

mandate engrafted in the proviso to sub-section (2) of

Section 167 of the Code if he has filed an application after

the expiry of the stipulated period alleging that no challan

has been filed and he is prepared to offer the bail that is

ordered, and it is found as a fact that no challan has been

filed within the period prescribed from the date of the arrest

of the accused. In our view, such interpretation would

subserve the purpose and the object for which the

29

provision in question was brought on to the statute-book. In

such a case, therefore, even if the application for

consideration of an order of being released on bail is

posted before the court after some length of time, or even if

the Magistrate refuses the application erroneously and the

accused moves the higher forum for getting a formal order

of being released on bail in enforcement of his indefeasible

right, then filing of challan at that stage will not take away

the right of the accused. Personal liberty is one of the

cherished objects of the Indian Constitution and deprivation

of the same can only be in accordance with law and in

conformity with the provisions thereof, as stipulated under

Article 21 of the Constitution. When the law provides that

the Magistrate could authorise the detention of the accused

in custody up to a maximum period as indicated in the

proviso to sub-section (2) of Section 167, any further

detention beyond the period without filing of a challan by

the investigating agency would be a subterfuge and would

not be in accordance with law and in conformity with the

provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, and as such,

could be violative of Article 21 of the Constitution. There is

no provision in the Criminal Procedure Code authorising

detention of an accused in custody after the expiry of the

period indicated in proviso to sub-section (2) of Section 167

excepting the contingency indicated in Explanation I,

namely, if the accused does not furnish the bail…But so

long as the accused files an application and indicates in the

application to offer bail on being released by appropriate

orders of the court then the right of the accused on being

released on bail cannot be frustrated on the off chance of

the Magistrate not being available and the matter not being

moved, or that the Magistrate erroneously refuses to pass

an order and the matter is moved to the higher forum and a

challan is filed in interregnum. This is the only way how a

balance can be struck between the so-called indefeasible

right of the accused on failure on the part of the

prosecution to file a challan within the specified period and

the interest of the society, at large, in lawfully preventing an

accused from being released on bail on account of inaction

on the part of the prosecuting agency. On the aforesaid

premises, we would record our conclusions as follows:

xxx xxx xxx

30

3. On the expiry of the said period of 90 days or 60 days,

as the case may be, an indefeasible right accrues in

favour of the accused for being released on bail on

account of default by the investigating agency in the

completion of the investigation within the period

prescribed and the accused is entitled to be released on

bail, if he is prepared to and furnishes the bail as

directed by the Magistrate.

xxx xxx xxx

6. The expression “if not already availed of” used by this

Court in Sanjay Dutt case [(1994) 5 SCC 410 : 1994

SCC (Cri) 1433] must be understood to mean when the

accused files an application and is prepared to offer bail

on being directed. In other words, on expiry of the period

specified in para (a) of the proviso to sub-section (2) of

Section 167 if the accused files an application for bail

and offers also to furnish the bail on being directed, then

it has to be held that the accused has availed of his

indefeasible right even though the court has not

considered the said application and has not indicated the

terms and conditions of bail, and the accused has not

furnished the same.”

[Emphasis Supplied]

B.N. Agrawal J. dissented, holding:

“29. My learned brother has referred to the expression “if

not already availed of” referred to in the judgment in Sanjay

Dutt case [(1994) 5 SCC 410 : 1994 SCC (Cri) 1433] for

arriving at Conclusion 6. According to me, the expression

“availed of” does not mean mere filing of application for bail

expressing therein willingness of the accused to furnish the

bail bond. What will happen if on the 61st day an

application for bail is filed for being released on bail on the

ground of default by not filing the challan by the 60th day

and on the 61st day the challan is also filed by the time the

Magistrate is called upon to apply his mind to the challan

as well as the petition for grant of bail? In view of the

several decisions referred to above and the requirements

prescribed by clause (a)(ii) of the proviso read with

Explanation I to Section 167(2) of the Code, as no bail

31

bond has been furnished, such an application for bail has

to be dismissed because the stage of proviso to Section

167(2) is over, as such right is extinguished the moment

the challan is filed.

30. In this background, the expression “availed of” does not

mean mere filing of the application for bail expressing

thereunder willingness to furnish bail bond, but the stage

for actual furnishing of bail bond must reach. If the challan

is filed before that, then there is no question of enforcing

the right, howsoever valuable or indefeasible it may be,

after filing of the challan because thereafter the right under

default clause cannot be exercised.”

25.The law laid down by the majority judgment in this case was however

not followed in Pragya Singh Thakur v. State of Maharashtra (2011)

10 SCC 445. This hiccup in the law was then cleared by the judgment

in Union of India v. Nirala Yadav (2014) 9 SCC 457, which

exhaustively discussed the entire case law on the subject. In this

judgment, a Two-Judge Bench of this Court referred to all the relevant

authorities on the subject including the majority judgment of Uday

Mohanlal Acharya (supra) and then concluded:

“44. At this juncture, it is absolutely essential to delve into

what were the precise principles stated in Uday Mohanlal

Acharya case [(2001) 5 SCC 453 : 2001 SCC (Cri) 760]

and how the two-Judge Bench has understood the same

in Pragyna Singh Thakur [(2011) 10 SCC 445 : (2012) 1

SCC (Cri) 311] . We have already reproduced the

paragraphs in extenso from Uday Mohanlal Acharya

case [(2001) 5 SCC 453 : 2001 SCC (Cri) 760] and the

relevant paragraphs from Pragyna Singh Thakur [(2011) 10

SCC 445 : (2012) 1 SCC (Cri) 311] . Pragyna Singh

Thakur [(2011) 10 SCC 445 : (2012) 1 SCC (Cri) 311] has

drawn support from Rustam [1995 Supp (3) SCC 221 :

1995 SCC (Cri) 830] case to buttress the principle it has

32

laid down though in Uday Mohanlal Acharya case [(2001) 5

SCC 453 : 2001 SCC (Cri) 760] the said decision has been

held not to have stated the correct position of law and,

therefore, the same could not have been placed reliance

upon. The Division Bench in para 56 which has been

reproduced hereinabove, has referred to para 13 and the

conclusions of Uday Mohanlal Acharya case [(2001) 5 SCC

453 : 2001 SCC (Cri) 760] . We have already quoted from

para 13 and the conclusions.

45. The opinion expressed in paras 54 and 58 in Pragyna

Singh Thakur [(2011) 10 SCC 445 : (2012) 1 SCC (Cri)

311] which we have emphasised, as it seems to us, runs

counter to the principles stated in Uday Mohanlal

Acharya [(2001) 5 SCC 453 : 2001 SCC (Cri) 760] which

has been followed in Hassan Ali Khan [(2011) 10 SCC

235 : (2012) 1 SCC (Cri) 256] and Sayed Mohd. Ahmad

Kazmi [(2012) 12 SCC 1 : (2013) 2 SCC (Cri) 488] . The

decision in Sayed Mohd. Ahmad Kazmi case [(2012) 12

SCC 1 : (2013) 2 SCC (Cri) 488] has been rendered by a

three-Judge Bench. We may hasten to state, though

in Pragyna Singh Thakur case [(2011) 10 SCC 445 : (2012)

1 SCC (Cri) 311] the learned Judges have referred to Uday

Mohanlal Acharya case [(2001) 5 SCC 453 : 2001 SCC

(Cri) 760] but have stated the principle that even if an

application for bail is filed on the ground that the chargesheet

was not filed within 90 days, but before the

consideration of the same and before being released on

bail, if the charge-sheet is filed the said right to be enlarged

on bail is lost. This opinion is contrary to the earlier larger

Bench decisions and also runs counter to the subsequent

three-Judge Bench decision in Mustaq Ahmed Mohammed

Isak case [(2009) 7 SCC 480 : (2009) 3 SCC (Cri) 449] .

We are disposed to think so, as the two-Judge Bench has

used the words “before consideration of the same and

before being released on bail”, the said principle

specifically strikes a discordant note with the proposition

stated in the decisions rendered by the larger Benches.

46. At this juncture, it will be appropriate to refer to the

dissenting opinion by B.N. Agarwal, J. in Uday Mohanlal

Acharya case [(2001) 5 SCC 453 : 2001 SCC (Cri) 760] .

33

The learned Judge dissented with the majority as far as

interpretation of the expression “if not already availed of” by

stating so: (SCC p. 481, paras 29-30)

“29. My learned Brother has referred to the expression ‘if

not already availed of’ referred to in the judgment

in Sanjay Dutt case [(1994) 5 SCC 410 : 1994 SCC (Cri)

1433] for arriving at Conclusion 6. According to me, the

expression ‘availed of’ does not mean mere filing of

application for bail expressing therein willingness of the

accused to furnish the bail bond. What will happen if on

the 61st day an application for bail is filed for being

released on bail on the ground of default by not filing the

challan by the 60th day and on the 61st day the challan

is also filed by the time the Magistrate is called upon to

apply his mind to the challan as well as the petition for

grant of bail? In view of the several decisions referred to

above and the requirements prescribed by clause (a)(ii)

of the proviso read with Explanation I to Section 167(2)

of the Code, as no bail bond has been furnished, such

an application for bail has to be dismissed because the

stage of proviso to Section 167(2) is over, as such right

is extinguished the moment the challan is filed.

30. In this background, the expression ‘availed of’ does

not mean mere filing of the application for bail expressing

thereunder willingness to furnish bail bond, but the stage

for actual furnishing of bail bond must reach. If the

challan is filed before that, then there is no question of

enforcing the right, howsoever valuable or indefeasible it

may be, after filing of the challan because thereafter the

right under default clause cannot be exercised.”

On a careful reading of the aforesaid two paragraphs, we

think, the two-Judge Bench in Pragyna Singh Thakur

case [(2011) 10 SCC 445 : (2012) 1 SCC (Cri) 311] has

somewhat in a similar matter stated the same. As long as

the majority view occupies the field it is a binding

precedent. That apart, it has been followed by a three-

Judge Bench in Sayed Mohd. Ahmad Kazmi case [(2012)

12 SCC 1 : (2013) 2 SCC (Cri) 488] . Keeping in view the

principle stated in Sayed Mohd. Ahmad Kazmi case [(2012)

12 SCC 1 : (2013) 2 SCC (Cri) 488] which is based on

three-Judge Bench decision in Uday Mohanlal Acharya

34

case [(2001) 5 SCC 453 : 2001 SCC (Cri) 760] , we are

obliged to conclude and hold that the principle laid down in

paras 54 and 58 of Pragyna Singh Thakur case [(2011) 10

SCC 445 : (2012) 1 SCC (Cri) 311] (which has been

emphasised by us: see paras 42 and 43 above) does not

state the correct principle of law. It can clearly be stated

that in view of the subsequent decision of a larger Bench

that cannot be treated to be good law. Our view finds

support from the decision in Union of India v. Arviva

Industries India Ltd. [(2014) 3 SCC 159].”

26. Also, in Syed Mohd. Ahmad Kazmi v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi)

(2012) 12 SCC 1, Section 43-D of the UAPA came up for

consideration before the Court, in particular the proviso which extends

the period for investigation beyond 90 days up to a period of 180 days.

An application for default bail had been made on 17.07.2012, as no

charge sheet was filed within a period of 90 days of the appellant’s

custody. The charge sheet in the aforesaid case was filed thereafter

on 31.07.2012. Despite the fact that this application was not taken up

for hearing before the filing of the charge sheet, this Court held that

this since an application for default bail had been filed prior to the filing

of the charge sheet the “indefeasible right” spoken of earlier had

sprung into action, as a result of which default bail had to be granted.

The Court held:

“25. Having carefully considered the submissions made on

behalf of the respective parties, the relevant provisions of

law and the decision cited, we are unable to accept the

submissions advanced on behalf of the State by the

learned Additional Solicitor General Mr Raval. There is no

35

denying the fact that on 17-7-2012, when CR No. 86 of

2012 was allowed by the Additional Sessions Judge and

the custody of the appellant was held to be illegal and an

application under Section 167(2) CrPC was made on

behalf of the appellant for grant of statutory bail which was

listed for hearing. Instead of hearing the application, the

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate adjourned the same till the

next day when the Public Prosecutor filed an application for

extension of the period of custody and investigation and on

20-7-2012 extended the time of investigation and the

custody of the appellant for a further period of 90 days with

retrospective effect from 2-6-2012. Not only is the

retrospectivity of the order of the Chief Metropolitan

Magistrate untenable, it could not also defeat the statutory

right which had accrued to the appellant on the expiry of 90

days from the date when the appellant was taken into

custody. Such right, as has been commented upon by this

Court in Sanjay Dutt [(1994) 5 SCC 410 : 1994 SCC (Cri)

1433] and the other cases cited by the learned Additional

Solicitor General, could only be distinguished

(sic extinguished) once the charge-sheet had been filed in

the case and no application has been made prior thereto

for grant of statutory bail. It is well-established that if an

accused does not exercise his right to grant of statutory

bail before the charge-sheet is filed, he loses his right to

such benefit once such charge-sheet is filed and can,

thereafter, only apply for regular bail.

26. The circumstances in this case, however, are different

in that the appellant had exercised his right to statutory bail

on the very same day on which his custody was held to be

illegal and such an application was left undecided by the

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate till after the application filed

by the prosecution for extension of time to complete

investigation was taken up and orders were passed

thereupon.

27. We are unable to appreciate the procedure adopted by

the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, which has been

endorsed by the High Court and we are of the view that the

appellant acquired the right for grant of statutory bail on 17-

7-2012, when his custody was held to be illegal by the

Additional Sessions Judge since his application for

statutory bail was pending at the time when the application

36

for extension of time for continuing the investigation was

filed by the prosecution. In our view, the right of the

appellant to grant of statutory bail remained unaffected by

the subsequent application and both the Chief Metropolitan

Magistrate and the High Court erred in holding otherwise.”

27. In a fairly recent judgment reported as Rakesh Kumar Paul v. State

of Assam (2017) 15 SCC 67, a Three-Judge Bench of this Court

referred to the earlier decisions of this Court and went one step further.

It was held by the majority judgment of Madan B. Lokur, J. and

Deepak Gupta, J. that even an oral application for grant of default bail

would suffice, and so long as such application is made before the

charge sheet is filed by the police, default bail must be granted. This

was stated in Lokur, J.’s judgment as follows:

“37. This Court had occasion to review the entire case law

on the subject in Union of India v. Nirala Yadav [Union of

India v. Nirala Yadav, (2014) 9 SCC 457 : (2014) 5 SCC

(Cri) 212] . In that decision, reference was made to Uday

Mohanlal Acharya v. State of Maharashtra [Uday Mohanlal

Acharya v. State of Maharashtra, (2001) 5 SCC 453 : 2001

SCC (Cri) 760] and the conclusions arrived at in that

decision. We are concerned with Conclusion (3) which

reads as follows: (Nirala Yadav case [Union of

India v. Nirala Yadav, (2014) 9 SCC 457 : (2014) 5 SCC

(Cri) 212] , SCC p. 472, para 24)

“‘13. (3) On the expiry of the said period of 90 days or 60

days, as the case may be, an indefeasible right accrues

in favour of the accused for being released on bail on

account of default by the investigating agency in the

completion of the investigation within the period

prescribed and the accused is entitled to be released on

bail, if he is prepared to and furnishes the bail as

directed by the Magistrate.’ (Uday Mohanlal case [Uday

Mohanlal Acharya v. State of Maharashtra, (2001) 5 SCC

453 : 2001 SCC (Cri) 760] , SCC p. 473, para 13)”

37

38. This Court also dealt with the decision rendered

in Sanjay Dutt [Sanjay Dutt v. State, (1994) 5 SCC 410 :

1994 SCC (Cri) 1433] and noted that the principle laid

down by the Constitution Bench is to the effect that if the

charge-sheet is not filed and the right for “default bail” has

ripened into the status of indefeasibility, it cannot be

frustrated by the prosecution on any pretext. The accused

can avail his liberty by filing an application stating that the

statutory period for filing the charge-sheet or challan has

expired and the same has not yet been filed and therefore

the indefeasible right has accrued in his or her favour and

further the accused is prepared to furnish the bail bond.

39. This Court also noted that apart from the possibility of

the prosecution frustrating the indefeasible right, there are

occasions when even the court frustrates the indefeasible

right. Reference was made to Mohd. Iqbal Madar

Sheikh v. State of Maharashtra [Mohd. Iqbal Madar

Sheikh v. State of Maharashtra, (1996) 1 SCC 722 : 1996

SCC (Cri) 202] wherein it was observed that some courts

keep the application for “default bail” pending for some

days so that in the meantime a charge-sheet is submitted.

While such a practice both on the part of the prosecution

as well as some courts must be very strongly and

vehemently discouraged, we reiterate that no subterfuge

should be resorted to, to defeat the indefeasible right of the

accused for “default bail” during the interregnum when the

statutory period for filing the charge-sheet or challan

expires and the submission of the charge-sheet or challan

in court.

Procedure for obtaining default bail

40. In the present case, it was also argued by the learned

counsel for the State that the petitioner did not apply for

“default bail” on or after 4-1-2017 till 24-1-2017 on which

date his indefeasible right got extinguished on the filing of

the charge-sheet. Strictly speaking, this is correct since the

petitioner applied for regular bail on 11-1-2017 in the

Gauhati High Court — he made no specific application for

grant of “default bail”. However, the application for regular

38

bail filed by the accused on 11-1-2017 did advert to the

statutory period for filing a charge-sheet having expired

and that perhaps no charge-sheet had in fact being filed. In

any event, this issue was argued by the learned counsel for

the petitioner in the High Court and it was considered but

not accepted by the High Court. The High Court did not

reject the submission on the ground of maintainability but

on merits. Therefore it is not as if the petitioner did not

make any application for default bail — such an application

was definitely made (if not in writing) then at least orally

before the High Court. In our opinion, in matters of

personal liberty, we cannot and should not be too technical

and must lean in favour of personal liberty. Consequently,

whether the accused makes a written application for

“default bail” or an oral application for “default bail” is of no

consequence. The court concerned must deal with such an

application by considering the statutory requirements,

namely, whether the statutory period for filing a chargesheet

or challan has expired, whether the charge-sheet or

challan has been filed and whether the accused is

prepared to and does furnish bail.

41. We take this view keeping in mind that in matters of

personal liberty and Article 21 of the Constitution, it is not

always advisable to be formalistic or technical. The history

of the personal liberty jurisprudence of this Court and other

constitutional courts includes petitions for a writ of habeas

corpus and for other writs being entertained even on the

basis of a letter addressed to the Chief Justice or the

Court.

xxx xxx xxx

Application of the law to the petitioner

45. On 11-1-2017 [Rakesh Kumar Paul v. State of Assam,

2017 SCC OnLine Gau 573] when the High Court

dismissed the application for bail filed by the petitioner, he

had an indefeasible right to the grant of “default bail” since

the statutory period of 60 days for filing a charge-sheet had

expired, no charge-sheet or challan had been filed against

him (it was filed only on 24-1-2017) and the petitioner had

39

orally applied for “default bail”. Under these circumstances,

the only course open to the High Court on 11-1-2017 was

to enquire from the petitioner whether he was prepared to

furnish bail and if so then to grant him “default bail” on

reasonable conditions. Unfortunately, this was completely

overlooked by the High Court.

46. It was submitted that as of today, a charge-sheet

having been filed against the petitioner, he is not entitled to

“default bail” but must apply for regular bail — the “default

bail” chapter being now closed. We cannot agree for the

simple reason that we are concerned with the interregnum

between 4-1-2017 and 24-1-2017 when no charge-sheet

had been filed, during which period he had availed of his

indefeasible right of “default bail”. It would have been

another matter altogether if the petitioner had not applied

for “default bail” for whatever reason during this

interregnum. There could be a situation (however rare)

where an accused is not prepared to be bailed out perhaps

for his personal security since he or she might be facing

some threat outside the correction home or for any other

reason. But then in such an event, the accused voluntarily

gives up the indefeasible right for default bail and having

forfeited that right the accused cannot, after the chargesheet

or challan has been filed, claim a resuscitation of the

indefeasible right. But that is not the case insofar as the

petitioner is concerned, since he did not give up his

indefeasible right for “default bail” during the interregnum

between 4-1-2017 and 24-1-2017 as is evident from the

decision of the High Court rendered on 11-1-2017 [Rakesh

Kumar Paul v. State of Assam, 2017 SCC OnLine Gau 573]

. On the contrary, he had availed of his right to “default bail”

which could not have been defeated on 11-1-2017 and

which we are today compelled to acknowledge and

enforce.

47. Consequently, we are of the opinion that the petitioner

had satisfied all the requirements of obtaining “default bail”

which is that on 11-1-2017 he had put in more than 60

days in custody pending investigations into an alleged

offence not punishable with imprisonment for a minimum

period of 10 years, no charge-sheet had been filed against

40

him and he was prepared to furnish bail for his release, as

such, he ought to have been released by the High Court on

reasonable terms and conditions of bail.

xxx xxx xxx

49. The petitioner is held entitled to the grant of “default

bail” on the facts and in the circumstances of this case. The

trial Judge should release the petitioner on “default bail” on

such terms and conditions as may be reasonable.

However, we make it clear that this does not prohibit or

otherwise prevent the arrest or re-arrest of the petitioner on

cogent grounds in respect of the subject charge and upon

arrest or re-arrest, the petitioner is entitled to petition for

grant of regular bail which application should be considered

on its own merit. We also make it clear that this will not

impact on the arrest of the petitioner in any other case.”

28.Deepak Gupta, J. in his concurring opinion agreed with Lokur, J. as

follows:

“82. The right to get “default bail” is a very important right.

Ours is a country where millions of our countrymen are

totally illiterate and not aware of their rights. A Constitution

Bench of this Court in Sanjay Dutt [Sanjay Dutt v. State,

(1994) 5 SCC 410 : 1994 SCC (Cri) 1433] has held that the

accused must apply for grant of “default bail”. As far as

Section 167 of the Code is concerned, Explanation I to

Section 167 provides that notwithstanding the expiry of the

period specified (i.e. 60 days or 90 days, as the case may

be), the accused can be detained in custody so long as he

does not furnish bail. Explanation I to Section 167 of the

Code reads as follows:

“Explanation I.—For the avoidance of doubts, it is hereby

declared that, notwithstanding the expiry of the period

specified in para (a), the accused shall be detained in

custody so long as he does not furnish bail.

This would, in my opinion, mean that even though the

period had expired, the accused would be deemed to be in

legal custody till he does not furnish bail. The requirement

is of furnishing of bail. The accused does not have to make

out any grounds for grant of bail. He does not have to file a

detailed application. All he has to aver in the application is

that since 60/90 days have expired and charge-sheet has

not been filed, he is entitled to bail and is willing to furnish

bail. This indefeasible right cannot be defeated by filing the

charge-sheet after the accused has offered to furnish bail.

xxx xxx xxx

86. I agree and concur with the conclusions drawn and

directions given by learned Brother Lokur, J. in paras 49 to

51 of his judgment.”

P.C. Pant, J., however, dissented holding:

“113. The law laid down as above shows that the

requirement of an application claiming the statutory right

under Section 167(2) of the Code is a prerequisite for the

grant of bail on default. In my opinion, such application has

to be made before the Magistrate for enforcement of the

statutory right. In the cases under the Prevention of

Corruption Act or other Acts where Special Courts are

constituted by excluding the jurisdiction of the Magistrate, it

has to be made before such Special Court. In the present

case, for the reasons discussed, since the appellant never

sought default bail before the court concerned, as such is

not entitled to the same.”

A conspectus of the aforesaid decisions would show that so long as

an application for grant of default bail is made on expiry of the period

of 90 days (which application need not even be in writing) before a

charge sheet is filed, the right to default bail becomes complete. It is of

no moment that the Criminal Court in question either does not dispose

42

of such application before the charge sheet is filed or disposes of such

application wrongly before such charge sheet is filed. 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 to Section 167(2), kicks in and must be granted.

29.On the facts of the present case, the High Court was wholly incorrect

in stating that once the challan was presented by the prosecution on

25.03.2019 as an application was filed by the Appellant on 26.03.2019,

the Appellant is not entitled to default bail. First and foremost, the High

Court has got the dates all wrong. The application that was made for

default bail was made on or before 25.02.2019 and not 26.03.2019.

The charge sheet was filed on 26.03.2019 and not 25.03.2019. The

fact that this application was wrongly dismissed on 25.02.2019 would

make no difference and ought to have been corrected in revision. The

sole ground for dismissing the application was that the time of 90 days

had already been extended by the learned Sub-Divisional Judicial

Magistrate, Ajnala by his order dated 13.02.2019. This Order was

correctly set aside by the Special Court by its judgment dated

25.03.2019, holding that under the UAPA read with the NIA Act, the

Special Court alone had jurisdiction to extend time to 180 days under

the first proviso in Section 43-D(2)(b). The fact that the Appellant filed

43

yet another application for default bail on 08.04.2019, would not mean

that this application would wipe out the effect of the earlier application

that had been wrongly decided. We must not forget that we are dealing

with the personal liberty of an accused under a statute which imposes

drastic punishments. The right to default bail, as has been correctly

held by the judgments of this Court, are not mere statutory rights

under the first proviso to Section 167(2) of the Code, but is part of the

procedure established by law under Article 21 of the Constitution of

India, which is, therefore, a fundamental right granted to an accused

person to be released on bail once the conditions of the first proviso to

Section 167(2) are fulfilled. This being the case, we set aside the

judgment of the High Court. The Appellant will now be entitled to be

released on “default bail” under Section 167(2) of the Code, as

amended by Section 43-D of the UAPA. However, we make it clear

that this does not prohibit or otherwise prevent the arrest or re-arrest of

the petitioner on cogent grounds, and upon arrest or re-arrest, the

petitioner is entitled to petition for the grant of regular bail which

application should be considered on its own merit. We also make it

clear that this judgement will have no impact on the arrest of the

petitioner in any other case.

30.The appeal is, accordingly, allowed, and the impugned judgement of

the High Court is set aside.

44

……………………… J.

(R.F. Nariman)

……………………… J.

(Navin Sinha)

……………………… J.

(K.M. Joseph)

New Delhi.

October 12, 2020.


Print Page

No comments:

Post a comment