As decided by the Supreme Court that the court will examine the legal position in regards to the time period for filing of charge sheet, for the purpose of default bail under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in case where the offence does not prescribe a minimum sentence and the term of imprisonment prescribed is more than ten years.
A notice was issued by the bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan on this question of law in the case of State (NCT of Delhi) v Rajeev Sharma.
In this case, the accused had been booked under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923, for allegedly leaking information to the Chinese Agents. The offence which was alleged against him attracted maximum punishment of 14 years imprisonment, but, there was no minimum punishment prescribed.
The Delhi High Court held that Section 167(2)(a)(i) of CrPC did not cover this case.
According to Section 167(2)(a)(i), the 90 days-time period for filing the charge sheet is available where the offence is punishable by death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for a term not less than 10 years.
The High Court relied on the interpretation given by the Supreme Court in the case of Rakesh Kumar Paul v State of Assam, where it was said that Section 167(2)(a)(i) covers cases with a minimum sentence of 10 years. With a majority of 2:1, the Supreme Court had stated that the accused will be entitled to a default bail where the offence is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years. (Majority- Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta, Dissenting- Justice Prafulla C Pant)
The Delhi High Court in the instant case while referring to the precedents of Supreme Court held that “under the Official Secret Acts for which the petitioner is being tried, though entail punishment which may extend to 14 years but the Section does not talk of minimum period of sentence and thus does not pass the test of clear period of 10 years or more, per Rajeev Choudhary (supra) and Rakesh Paul (supra) and as such the period of challan, in this case, would be 60 days and thus the impugned order passed by the learned MM being illegal is set aside and the petition is allowed. The petitioner is thus entitled to default bail; the challan having not been filed within 60 days”
The Delhi Police filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court challenging the Delhi High Court order. Additional Solicitor General (ASG), Aman Lekhi appeared for the petitioner and submitted that the decision required reconsideration. It was submitted that the expression “not less than 10 years” applies in the current case and that the charge sheet was filed in due time. The ASG submitted that the view of Justice Pant was legally more tenable.