By Sharvari Lohakare
On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a notice on the Special Leave Petition chosen against the May 11 order of the Madras High Court stating that the accused cannot claim ‘default’ bail taking advantage of the March 23 suo moto order of the Supreme Court to extend limitation periods considering the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown situation. The bench of Justice V Ramasubramanian issued this notice after hearing Senior Advocates Siddharth Luthra, V Karthik and Nithin Saravanan.
The above mentioned Special Leave Petition states that the High Court did not consider that Sec 167(2) doesn’t bar the filing of the chargesheet even after the period specified therein, that the implication of the provision is that if the chargesheet is not filed within the stipulated period, the magistrate is divested of the jurisdiction to author the detention of the accused. This provision is an additional right in favour of the accused who is prepared to secure bail, and not to be interpreted as containing the period of limitation for filing the final report. It was argued that the objective of the Apex Court’s March 23 order was to make sure that no litigant is deprived of his valuable rights , and that the denial of compulsive bail under Section 167(2) would be an infringement of the valuable fundamental right under Article 21. It was also advanced that the High Court did not duly appreciate the provisions of CrPC, particularly Section 473 which is the specific provision for extension of limitation in certain cases, where the delay is explained or is deemed necessary to overlook the expiry of limitation in the interest of justice.
The Kerala HC and the Uttarakhand HC have also expressed similar opinions in this regard. Last week, the Rajasthan HC also enunciated, “In absence of any clear stipulation in the above referred order of Hon’ble SC, in my considered opinion , the investigating or prosecuting agency cannot claim self-serving extension, under the pretence or cloak of such order. If that permitted, statutory period of completing assessments etc. In all statutes such as Income Tax Act, GST Act etc. Will stand automatically extended, which, in absence of express statutory amendments is impermissible.”