Case Name: State of Kerala vs. Rajesh
Case No.: Criminal Appeal No. 154157 of 2020
Coram: Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice Ajay Rastogi
The Supreme Court has held that taking a liberal approach is uncalled for while exercising the power to grant bail in cases under the Narcotic Substances and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act).
The Bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and Ajay Rastogi held that the scheme of Section 37 of the NDPS Act stipulates that the power of the Court to grant bail in cases under this Act are subject to certain limitations, “Underlying object of Section 37 is that in addition to the limitations provided under the CrPC, or any other law for the time being in force, regulating the grant of bail, its liberal approach in the matter of bail under the NDPS Act is indeed uncalled for.”
These limitations include limitations prescribed under Section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) as well as those put in place by Section 37 of the NDPS Act itself. The scheme of Section 37 reveals that the exercise of power to grant bail is not only subject to the limitations contained under Section 439 of the CrPC but is also subject to the limitation placed by Section 37 which commences with non-obstante clause.
The accused in the instant case was denied bail by the trial court in light of Section 37(1) (b) (ii) of the NDPS Act. Aggrieved by the same, an appeal was filed before the Kerala High Court, which allowed the same and granted bail to the accused. The State of Kerala subsequently moved to the Apex Court in an appeal against the order of the High Court. The Supreme Court noted that the High Court had failed to take into account the scheme provided under Section 37 of the NDPS Act and had erred in granting bail to the accused. Therefore, the appeal of the State was allowed and the order of the High Court was set aside.
- In the case on hand, the High Court seems to have completely overlooked the underlying object of Section 37 that in addition to the limitations provided under the CrPC, or any other law for the time being in force, regulating the grant of bail, its liberal approach in the matter of bail under the NDPS Act is indeed uncalled for.
- It was further observed that the learned Single Judge has failed to record a finding mandate under section 37 of the NDPS Act which is a sin qua non for granting bail to the accused under the Act.
- In this, the Court held that the provision prescribes against enlargement of an accused on bail without the satisfaction of a twin condition laid down. The first condition is that the prosecution must be given a chance to oppose the bail plea. The second condition is that there must be reasonable grounds for the Court to believe that the accused is not guilty of the offence. Even if one of the conditions is not satisfied, bail cannot be granted, the Apex Court held.
- The Apex Court has further elucidated that “reasonable grounds” means that the grounds must be beyond prima facie grounds. There should be “substantial probable cause” in favour of the accused, the judgment states.
- The expression “reasonable grounds” means something more than prima facie grounds. It contemplates substantial probable causes for believing that the accused is not guilty of the alleged offence. The reasonable belief contemplated in the provision requires the existence of such facts and circumstances which are sufficient in themselves to justify satisfaction that the accused is not guilty of the alleged offence.
Edited by Vartika Gajendra Singh
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje