The Bombay High Court has asked the state to clarify whether trial courts can deny temporary bail to undertrials, who are eligible for release as per Supreme Court directives to decongest prisons.
Justice Bharati Dangre, on May 8, was hearing a plea by filed former BJP corporator Mahesh B Patil, through advocates Ghanshyam Upadhyay and Prakash Salsingikar, after his bail application was rejected by the sessions court on merits while he was eligible to be released as per SC directives.
A high-powered committee constituted in the state following a SC order on decongesting prisons had decided that undertrial prisoners, booked for offenses with maximum punishment up to seven years, will be released on interim bail initially for 45 days by furnishing personal bonds.
Patil has been booked under sections 25 (punishment for selling or manufacturing of arms) and 29 (punishment for knowingly purchasing arms) of the Arms Act. Though he was accused of conspiracy for murder of a fellow corporator, the police had removed murder charges against him.
He had initially sought release before the superintendent of Adharwadi District Jail in Kalyan, where he is lodged. Later, he moved a bail plea before the sessions court.
The court, however, rejected the plea on April 28, which prompted him to move HC.
Justice Dangre said: “Surprisingly, the sessions court rejected the application on merits of the case and made a reference to the directive of the High Power Committee, but it has observed that the temporary bail cannot be allowed as of right and need to be considered in light of the guidelines of the committee and the facts and circumstances in case and the possibility of adverse effect.”
The court observed that sessions court had noted that the charges against accused may be minor but incident was serious and releasing him on bail would cause adverse effect to the police’s case and rejected the bail plea. However, Justice Dangre noted that Patil had not been accused under special laws. “The question that arises is whether in the wake of the guidelines issued by the Government of Maharashtra, it is permissible for the Sessions Court to take a decision on merits particularly when the case of a particular applicant does not fall within the exceptions framed out by the High Power Committee,” she asked.
After Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare sought a week’s time to make a statement on the state’s position, the bench posted further hearing for May 15.
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