A Bench of Justices H L Dattu and S A Bobde reproached the agency for failing to complete the probe expeditiously, resulting in overstretched incarceration of Reddy without a trial.
Apprised that Reddy had been in jail for around two-and-a-half years pending investigation, the SC said it could not allow indefinite incarceration of a citizen without a trial.
“In the name of completing investigation, how many months is he (Reddy) going to remain inside? It just cannot go on and on. A citizen cannot remain jailed without a trial only because the probe agency wants to keep filing supplementary chargesheets,” the Bench told Additional Solicitor General Paras Kuhad, who appeared for the CBI.
Kuhad had sought to convince the court that there were several aspects of the case that required further investigation.
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However, the Bench shot back: “How many months and years can this be allowed to go on? This man (Reddy) has been inside for two-and-a-half years but you want more time to file an additional chargesheet. You should have completed the probe by now.”
The SC said Reddy and the other accused in the case may or may not have committed the alleged crime but in a democratic set-up, a person could not be allowed to remain in jail for years without a trial.
“You (CBI) may have your own difficulties. But being the highest court of the land, can we say that you can keep a person behind bars indefinitely? They also have rights like every other citizen until they are convicted,” it said.
The Bench adjourned the matter till March 28, hoping the CBI would complete the investigation by then.
The observations came as Mukul Rohatgi, counsel for Reddy, cried foul over the CBI opposing bail to his client on the pretext of filing one chargesheet after another.
Reddy and his brother-in-law B V Srinivsas Reddy, managing director of OMC, were arrested in September 2011 from Bellary in Karnataka. OMC is accused of changing mining lease boundary markings between Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and illegal mining in reserve forest areas spread between Bellary and Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh.