Court's duty to release accused on default bail without delay if probe not completed within time: Jammu & Kashmir High Court

"... once petitioner had applied for grant of bail after the expiry of stipulated time limit for investigation, it is the duty of Court to release him on bail forthwith without any unnecessary delay," the Court said.
Court's duty to release accused on default bail without delay if probe not completed within time: Jammu & Kashmir High Court
High Court of Jammu & Kashmir

In allowing a bail plea by a man accused under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has observed that an accused/applicant should be granted default bail if the investigation agency does not complete its probe within the prescribed time limit as per the law (Gurdev Singh v. UT of Jammu and Kashmir and anr).

Justice Sanjay Dhar granted bail to the petitioner, while observing:

"It is clear that once petitioner had applied for grant of bail after the expiry of stipulated time limit for investigation, it is the duty of Court to release him on bail forthwith without any unnecessary delay."

The Bench held that Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) provided a clear mandate that the investigative agency must collect the required evidence within the prescribed time period, failing which the accused can no longer be detained.

The Court was hearing a petition filed through Advocate Irfaan Khan seeking the release of one Gurdev Singh on bail. Singh had been arrested in February 2020 under the NDPS Act. The charge sheet was filed against him on June 23 i.e. after 122 days of his arrest.

On the other hand, Section 167 (2), CrPC, read with the NDPS provisions applicable in the case, required that the charge sheet be filed within 90 days.

The petitioner, therefore, contended that he is entitled to default bail since the investigation agency failed to present the charge sheet within the stipulated period of time.

Allowing his prayer, the Court agreed that if the investigative agencies do not complete their investigation within the time limits, the arrested person is entitled to ‘default bail’ under Section 167 (2), CrPC.

The filing of a charge sheet subsequent to the expiry of the stipulated time limit for investigation would not defeat the right of the petitioner to default bail, the Court said.

The Court also criticised the NDPS Special Court for denying the petitioner default bail, finding that the Judge had not even dealt with this aspect in his order.

By ignoring the statutory provisions as well as the precedents governing the grant of default bail, the learned Special Judge has shown utter disregard for the procedure established by law and acted arbitrarily, the Hugh Court said.

The High Court ultimately directed the petitioner's release on bail subject to furnishing a personal bond in the amount of Rs. 1 lakh, on the condition that he should appear before the trial court every date of the hearing and provided he not influence the witnesses.

Read the order:

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Gurdev Singh v. UT of Jammu and Kashmir and anr.pdf
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