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Sunday, August 01, 2021

Bail matters: Supreme Court frowns on lengthy hearings, debates on legal provisions

“One thing can be said that provisions of the Act are not to be debated in this manner,” Justice S K Kaul heading a two-judge bench remarked as it took up the Delhi Police appeal against bail granted to the trio.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: July 23, 2021 8:31:45 am
Student activists Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha outside Tihar prison in New Delhi. (PTI)

The Supreme Court Thursday took exception to lengthy bail hearings and detailed discussions on legal provisions in bail orders. The context was the recent Delhi High Court order granting bail to Northeast Delhi riots accused Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal and Asif Iqbal Tanha wherein the court had elaborately discussed provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967.

“One thing can be said that provisions of the Act are not to be debated in this manner,” Justice S K Kaul heading a two-judge bench remarked as it took up the Delhi Police appeal against bail granted to the trio.

The bench, however, indicated that it was “unlikely” to be convinced to cancel the bail.

Justice Kaul asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta if the Delhi Police was aggrieved by the bail granted to them or the HC’s interpretation of UAPA. “We are on both the issues. We will try to convince you on both the points,” replied the SG. “Very unlikely, but you can try,” Justice Kaul responded.

The bench, also comprising Justice Hemant Gupta, expressed its displeasure over lengthy hearing of bail matters.

“This has troubled us many times. Bail matters are heard at length in trial court, High Court and here. You can’t do it here. We only propose to hear this matter for only couple of hours,” said Justice Kaul. “If we are going to debate for hours a bail matter! Bail proceedings are not in the nature of final adjudicatory proceedings. Prima facie call has to be taken if bail has to be granted or not,” added Justice Kaul.

The court went on to adjourn the matter by four weeks after Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Kalita and Narwal, sought permission to submit the chargesheet, which he said runs into 20,000 pages, in a pendrive. The bench permitted him to do so.

While issuing notice in the matter on June 18, a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian had said that “the way it (UAPA) has been interpreted probably will require examination by the Supreme Court”. The SC also made it clear then that in the, meanwhile, the HC order will not be treated as a precedent and shall not be relied upon by anyone before any court.

The SC did not, however, stay the June 15, 2021, HC order, saying it is not interfering with the bail granted to the activists “at this stage”.

The Delhi Police Special Cell in its appeal had said the HC, which only had to decide on bail, had conducted a “mini trial” and “watered down” provisions of UAPA “which will have wide ramifications and will affect all cases registered by the National Investigation Agency” under the Act.

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