Supreme Court objects to High Court order

Taking a serious view of the Orissa High Court granting bail to Manoj Kumar Pradhan, BJP MLA convicted and sentenced to seven years' rigorous imprisonment in the Kandhamal riots cases, the Supreme Court has ordered cancellation of bail.

A Bench of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar was allowing an appeal by Kanaka Rekha Naik, whose husband was burnt and killed during the 2008 riots.

No single reason

Writing the judgment, Justice Reddy said: “There is no dispute that the respondent is involved in more than one case of similar nature of rioting etc. This fact has not at all been taken into consideration by the High Court.” It did not even suspend the execution of the sentence awarded by the trial court but directed his release on bail. Nor did it record a single reason for confining the relief to the respondent, though there were two appellants challenging the trial court judgment.”

The only consideration

“What are the reasons for confining the relief to the respondent and directing his release? The only reason appears to be the fact that he is a sitting MLA. The law does not make any distinction between the representatives of the people and others accused of criminal offences. Neither they can claim any privilege nor can it be granted by any court. The law treats all equally.”

The Bench said the High Court ought to have taken into consideration the serious nature of allegations, the findings recorded by the trial court and the alleged involvement of the respondent in more than one case in deciding whether it was a fit case for release on bail during the pendency of the appeal.

“The impugned order does not record any reason whatsoever except a vague observation that the nature of allegations has been taken into consideration. In the circumstances, we find it difficult to sustain the order.”

Matter remitted

The Bench remitted the matter to the High Court for consideration afresh in accordance with law, and asked it to record reasons for its conclusions.