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The Jharkhand High Court on Monday emphasised that payment of a fine cannot be imposed as a condition for the grant of bail, terming the same as bad in law given the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and Supreme Court rulings on the subject (Jitendra Oraon vs. State of Orissa).
Justice Ananda Sen passed an order to this effect while dealing with a plea challenging a Ranchi Judicial Commissioner's decision to impose a fine of Rs 60,000 to be paid to the Excise Department as a condition for granting bail to a man accused of illegally storing liquor.
The Court ultimately ruled,
The Court explained that a fine is a punitive measure that is imposed only when the guilt of the accused is proved and he is convicted of the charge framed against him. Further, the judge noted that "unless the guilt is proved and accused is convicted, no punishment can be imposed and fine which is in fact a sentence cannot be awarded."
While this is the case, it was pointed out that the grant of bail is not linked to finding the accused guilty of the charge warranting the imposition of a punishment. Rather, the Court observed that,
"It is well settled that while dealing with the bail application, the finding, which is given therein while disposing the bail application is not conclusive finding so far as it relates to the guilt of the accused... Findings are prima facie in nature, which should not have any bearing in the trial of the accused. The accused is convicted or acquitted on the basis of the evidence, which is led in course of trial. The order passed in the bail is not a final judgment in the trial."
As also expressly laid down in the case of Sanjay Chandra versus Central Bureau of Investigation, the object of bail is neither punitive nor preventative, rather deprivation of the liberty must be considered a punishment.
Moreover, the Judge also referred to the Supreme Court rulings in Munish Bhasin & Others versus State (Government of NCT of Delhi) & Another and Sumit Mehta versus State (NCT of Delhi) to pinpoint the kind of conditions that may be imposed on an applicant by a criminal court while granting bail, i.e.
Conditions to secure the presence of the accused before the investigating officer or before the court;
Contitions to prevent him from fleeing the course of justice;
Conditions to prevent him from tampering with the evidence or to prevent him from inducing or intimidating the witnesses so as to dissuade them from disclosing the facts before the police or court;
Contions restricting the movements of the accused in a particular area or locality or to maintain law and order, etc.
Further, it was also laid down that these conditions "should not be harsh, onerous or excessive, so as to frustrate the object of grant of bail."
In view of these principles, the Bench concluded that while a sessions judge may impose any condition s/he sees fit while granting bail under Sections 437 and 439 of the CrPC, such condition would not extent to an irrelevant condition such as the imposition of a fine. Therefore, the Court ruled,
Before allowing the plea, the judge also made note to expressly reject submissions that the bail applicant had expressed his willingness to pay the fine before the lower Cout. Responding to this stance, the High Court emphasised,
"The Court should not be swayed by the submissions made by the parties, rather, should evaluate and base its order on the correct perspective and principle of law."
Read the order:
Recently, another Bench of the Jharkhand High Court allowed the grant of bail to a two accused of Railway Act offences provided that they pay a contribution of Rs 35,000 each to the PM CARES fund set up to aid in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, the Kerala High Court took a different view, opining that a lower court's decision to impose a condition that the applicant pay Rs 25,000 to Coronavirus relief funds for the grant of bail was improper and unjust, relying on the Suprem Court ruling in Moti Ram v. State of Madhya Pradesh.