Personal liberty of undertrial can’t be curtailed for indefinite period: Delhi HC

Any imprisonment before conviction has a substantial punitive content, observes Delhi High Court

June 21, 2023 02:08 am | Updated 02:08 am IST - New Delhi

The Delhi High Court granted bail to an accused in a kidnapping case, noting that imprisonment cannot be prolonged for ‘teaching the accused a lesson’.

The Delhi High Court granted bail to an accused in a kidnapping case, noting that imprisonment cannot be prolonged for ‘teaching the accused a lesson’. | Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO

The Delhi High Court has observed that imprisonment at the stage of trial cannot be prolonged only for the purpose of “teaching the accused a lesson”, as it granted bail to an accused in a kidnapping case.

“A person who has not been convicted should only be kept in custody if there is a possibility that he or she might abscond or tamper with evidence or threaten the witness. Merely because the offence is of a serious nature cannot be the ground to curtail the personal liberty of an undertrial for an indefinite period,” Justice Vikas Mahajan noted.

The case was based on a complaint by woman on September 3, 2020, at the New Ashok Nagar police station, stating that her daughter had gone missing after going to a bank in Noida.

Later that day, the victim’s father told the police that the kidnappers had called him and threatened to kill his daughter unless he paid a ransom of ₹40 lakh.

The police immediately traced the kidnappers to Noida’s Chhalera village and the next day, a team rescued the victim as well as arrested the accused, Simpal Srivastav and Shah Alam, from the spot.

In its order on June 7, the High Court noted that the chargesheet in the case has already been filed and no recovery needs to be made from the accused Shah Alam, who has been in custody since September 4, 2020.

Justice Mahajan said the examination-in-chief of the victim has already been recorded and since there are 23 witnesses, it will take a long time to conclude the trial.

Mr. Alam’s counsel argued that his client is a young man about 26 years of age and had no criminal antecedents, adding that he comes from a very poor family and has been in prison for a long time.

While the prosecution opposed the bail plea, the High Court remarked, “From time to time, necessity demands that some unconvicted persons should be held in custody pending trial to secure their attendance at the trial but in such cases, ‘necessity’ is the operative test.”

The judge noted that “one must not lose sight of the fact that any imprisonment before conviction has a substantial punitive content”.

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