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[Default Bail] Right accruing to the accused under Section 167(2) CrPC does not get extinguished by subsequent filing of an additional complaint or chargesheet by the investigating agency, SC

The SC on October 26, 2020 {M. Ravindran vs. The Intelligence Officer, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence} held that while   computing   the   period   under Section   167(2),   the   day   on   which   accused   was   remanded   to judicial   custody   has   to   be   excluded   and   the   day   on   which challan/charge­sheet is filed in the court has to be included.

It was observed by the Bench, comprising of Justice U U Lalit, Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Justice Vineet Saran, that the history of the enactment of Section 167(2), CrPC and the safeguard of ‘default bail’ contained in the Proviso thereto is intrinsically linked to Article 21 and is nothing   but   a   legislative   exposition   of   the   constitutional safeguard that no person shall be detained except in accordance with rule of law. It   was   emphasized   that   the   right   of   the accused to be set at liberty takes precedence over the right of the State to carry on the investigation and submit a chargesheet.

The question falling for consideration before the SC was whether the indefeasible right accruing to the   appellant   under   Section   167(2), CrPC gets extinguished by subsequent filing of an additional   complaint   by   the   investigating agency. And whether   the   Court   should   take   into consideration   the   time   of   filing   of   the application for bail, based on default of the investigating agency or the time of disposal of   the   application   for   bail while deciding application u/s Sec 167(2).

The SC held that once the accused files an application for bail   under   the   Proviso   to   Section   167(2)   he is deemed to have ‘availed of’ or enforced his right to be released on default bail, accruing after expiry of the stipulated time limit for investigation. Thus, it was held that if the accused applies for bail under Section 167(2), CrPC read with Section 36A (4), NDPS Act upon expiry of 180 days or the extended period, as the case may be, the Court must release him on bail forthwith   without   any   unnecessary   delay   after getting   necessary   information   from   the   public prosecutor. It was held that such   prompt action   will   restrict   the   prosecution   from frustrating the legislative mandate to release the accused   on   bail   in   case   of   default   by   the investigative agency.

It was held that the right   to be released on default bail continues  to   remain   enforceable   if   the   accused has   applied   for   such   bail,   notwithstanding pendency of the bail application; or subsequent filing   of   the   chargesheet   or   a   report   seeking extension of time by the prosecution before the Court;   or   filing   of   the   chargesheet   during   the interregnum when challenge to the rejection of the bail application is pending before a higher Court.

It was held that however, where the accused fails to apply for default bail when the right accrues to him, and subsequently a chargesheet, additional complaint or a report seeking extension of time is preferred before   the   Magistrate,   the   right   to   default   bail would be extinguished. It was held that the Magistrate would be at liberty to take cognizance of the case or grant further time for completion of the investigation, as the case may be, though the accused may still be released   on   bail   under   other   provisions   of   the CrPC. 

It was held that notwithstanding the order of default bail passed by the Court, by virtue of Explanation I to Section 167(2), the actual release of the accused from   custody   is   contingent   on   the   directions passed by the competent Court granting bail. It was held that if the accused fails to furnish bail and/or comply with the terms and conditions of the bail order within   the   time   stipulated   by   the   Court,   his continued detention in custody is valid.

The appeal was allowed accordingly by the SC.

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