On 2 cases from UP and Odisha, SC makes 1 point on detention after charge sheet

Published on Jul 28, 2021 11:33 PM IST

The Supreme Court said it was unable to appreciate why the petitioner was sent to jail after charge sheet was filed though the person hadn’t been arrested when CBI was still investigating the case.

The Supreme Court was told there was a practice in Uttar Pradesh that even if a person is not arrested during investigations, they are sent to custody once the charge sheet is filed (HT Photo)
The Supreme Court was told there was a practice in Uttar Pradesh that even if a person is not arrested during investigations, they are sent to custody once the charge sheet is filed (HT Photo)
ByAbraham Thomas

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that a person’s custody may not be necessary after filing of charge sheet if he has remained on bail during the period of investigation.

The court was dealing with two cases that posed similar questions concerning the liberty of the accused. In the first case, a person charged with a graft case in Uttar Pradesh was issued non-bailable warrants for not appearing despite being served summons by the trial judge. The accused was on bail throughout the investigation and even the charge sheet was filed in the case.

The second case from Odisha presented similar facts before the court. An accused in a chit fund scam was denied permission to appear virtually before the trial judge due to the Covid pandemic and faced non-bailable warrants from the trial judge. In this case too, the charge sheet was filed and at no point during the investigation, the accused had been arrested.

The bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy protected both the accused from arrest by staying the non-bailable warrants. The court directed the accused to appear before the trial court and posted the matter for hearing on August 18.

Both cases were probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). In the UP case, senior advocate Sidharth Luthra appearing for the accused Satender Kumar Antil, pointed out a disturbing trend prevailing in the state. “The system sought to be followed especially in the state of Uttar Pradesh is that even if a person is not arrested during investigations, on charge sheet being filed, more so, in such cases of CBI, a person is sent to custody.”

It was this apprehension that forced the accused to seek anticipatory bail that was rejected by the Allahabad High Court on July 1.

Commenting on this trend, the bench said, “Prima facie, we cannot appreciate why in such a scenario is there a requirement for the petitioner being sent to custody. It will be appropriate to lay down some principle.”

Antil was working as assistant provident fund commissioner when he was accused in August 2020 of being a beneficiary of 9 lakh bribe paid to an inspector working under him. The charge sheet was filed in October 2020, following which the special CBI court in Ghaziabad issued summons asking him to appear on February 2. The accused could not appear and his anticipatory bail was quashed by the trial judge, and non-bailable warrants issued.

The top court on Wednesday wondered why the accused did not move a regular bail plea since the investigation in the case was complete. Luthra pointed out that in UP, once an accused appears on the summons, he is sent to custody regardless of the bail plea being filed.

The bench felt that the issue raised a question of a person’s liberty. It was presented with the same situation while dealing with the Odisha case. This related to Amanpreet Singh, an accused in a chit fund scam. Singh was issued the summons to appear before the special chief judicial magistrate on June 9. Due to the pandemic, he requested for virtual appearance. The trial court rejected his request and issued non-bailable warrants.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh, who appeared for Amanpreet, cited a June 4 order of the Orissa high court which only permitted entry into court premises to staffers due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Throughout the probe, CBI never sought his arrest and now his regular bail plea was rejected by Orissa High Court on July 9.

The bench protected the petitioner from arrest and asked him to attend the trial proceedings virtually till there is a possibility to attend the courts physically.

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