CASE: Ajeet Chaudhary v. State of U.P. and Another
CITATION: Criminal Misc. Bail Application No. – 45784 of 2020
CORAM: Hon’ble Justice Ajay Bhanot
While hearing the concerns of parties that certain irregularities in the practices of hearing of bail applications/bail appeals under ‘The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989’, the Allahabad HC on 11th January issued certain directions regarding placing of bail application/bail appeal under the Act before the Court and timely delivery of notice to victim.
Justice Ajay Bhanot noted that applications for bail should be processed expeditiously and sent to the court for hearing within a fair and definite period of time.
MATURATION OF A BAIL APPLICATION
It will be noted that Rule 18 of Chapter 18 of the Allahabad High Court Rules lays down the procedure of maturation of a bail application before it is brought before the Court.
However, the requisite amendments to Rule 18 of the Allahabad High Court Rules were subsequently made, reducing the time of notification of bail from ten days to two days.
RELEVANT PROVISIONS OF THE SC & ST ACT
It is now necessary to note that in Section 15 of the Act, the rights of victims and witnesses and provisions for the grant of bail have received special attention under the SC & ST Act.
Section 15 (A) (3) and (5) are reproduced hereunder:
“(3) A victim or his dependent shall have the right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any Court proceeding including any bail proceeding and the Special Public Prosecutor or the State Government shall inform the victim about any proceedings under this Act.”
“5) A victim or his dependent shall be entitled to be heard at any proceeding under this Act in respect of bail, discharge, release, parole, conviction or sentence of an accused or any connected proceedings or arguments and file written submission on conviction, acquittal or sentencing.”
It can also be noted that as per Section 15 (A) (3), the State Government or Special Public Prosecutor is nominated as the sole agency with the exclusive statutory duty to inform the victim about the bail proceedings.
Also, the term “reasonable, accurate and timely notice to the victim” used under Section 15(3) of the Act states that the victim has to be given adequate time to prepare his/her defence, prior to placing of the matter before the Court.
The Court also observed,
“Direct responsibility for service of bail notice upon the victim under the Act is upon the State. The Act does not contemplate sending of bail notice to the victim by the court.”
The Court further observed,
“Failure to serve notice of bail upon the victim, is failure of the State to perform its statutory function. The accused cannot be visited with penal consequences for the default of the State. The erring officials have to be proceeded against as per law.”
The Court also noted that the placement before the court of the bail application/bail appeal cannot be deferred for notice of non-service after the expiry of the time line stipulated below.
Furthermore, the Court ordered that, pursuant to the Act, the bail application/bail appeal be brought before the Court in strict adherence with the following timeline and procedure:
- The notice of the bail application/ bail appeal under the Act shall be served upon the Government Advocate before 12:00 PM of any working day.
- The State Government shall ensure that service of notice of the bail application/ bail appeal is effected upon the victim not later than 96 hours after the receipt of the said notice.
- The victim will be entitled to 72 hours after the receipt of notice of bail.
- Save in exceptional circumstances which are accepted by the Court, the bail application/ bail appeal under the Act shall be placed before the Court immediately after the expiry of 168 hours/7 days from the time of service of notice of bail application/bail appeal upon the Government Advocate as aforesaid.
- The report of the service of notice of bail application/ bail appeal shall be submitted by the State authority before the court showing due compliance of the provisions of section 15(3) of the Act.
- In case the counsel for the applicant does not move the bail application/bail appeal as per the current procedure to enable it to be placed before the Court 7 days after the initial service of notice, this procedure shall be followed.
- The applicant or his/ her counsel shall give 96 hours of notice to the Government Advocate as to the exact date on which such application is intended to be moved. The State shall thereafter cause such notice to be served again upon the victim so as to enable him to have “accurate, notice of the proposed bail application.”
- During this period of 7 days’ notice of the bail application under the Act, the police authorities shall ensure that appropriate instructions are available with the Government Advocates to assist the Court at the hearing of the bail application/bail appeal.
- The S.S.P/ D.C.P/S.P. (in districts where there is no post of S.S.P) of the concerned district shall be the nodal officer, who shall supervise the staff charged with the duty of actually serving the notice upon the victim and to provide instructions and relevant material to the Government Advocate on the bail application. In case, there is default on part of such official, the S.S.P./ D.C.P/ S.P. of the concerned district shall take immediate action in accordance with law against such erring official.
- The process of law cannot move at a bullock cart pace in the age of information technology. Institutions have to upgrade with the latest technological developments. Fruits of technology have to be put in the service of the people.
Also, the Court directed the Director-General of Police to create a State Level Committee headed by Officer not below than the rank of Additional Director General of Police. The Committee was directed to review the functioning and execution of the above-mentioned directions, to streamline the procedures, to research the possibility of further reducing the notice period of bail appeals/bail applications against victims, and to examine the actions taken against the officials concerned for violating the directions. The Committee has been directed to present its report to the State Government on an annual basis and to make relevant recommendations.