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Leave merits of a case for trial, says Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India. | File

Supreme Court of India. | File   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

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‘Prejudging offence to deny bail is against the right of an accused to a fair trial’

A tendency among government agencies to hand over documents in sealed covers to courts in “every case” coupled with an inclination among judges to verbatim reproduce their contents as judicial findings to deny bail is against the right of an accused to a fair trial, the Supreme Court held in its Chidambaram judgment on Wednesday.

“It would be against the concept of fair trial if in every case the prosecution presents documents in sealed cover and the findings on the same are recorded as if the offence is committed and the same is treated as having a bearing for denial or grant of bail,” a three-judge Bench led by Justice R. Banumathi observed in the 37-page judgment allowing bail to former Union Minister P. Chidambaram in the INX Media case.

The apex court reacted sharply to the recent trend of agencies like the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate trying to press documents in sealed covers on the courts. The agencies present these documents as evidence collected against the accused in the course of investigation.

Justice A.S. Bopanna, writing the judgment for the Bench also comprising Justice Hrishikesh Roy, said the situation is made worse when judges convert the findings of the investigative agencies in these documents into their own judicial findings and reproduce them in orders refusing the accused bail.

Justice Bopanna observed that the merits of a case should be left for the trial where the accused can defend himself.

The apex court said though it was open for a judge to receive the materials/documents collected during the investigation in order to either “satisfy its conscience that the investigation is proceeding on the right lines” or to grant bail, the judge cannot reproduce the material as his own findings in a judicial order.

This is the second time the apex court has expressed displeasure over the Delhi High Court reproducing contents from the investigating agency’s material and cloaking it as judicial findings to deny Mr. Chidambaram bail.

On September 5, the same apex court Bench had disapproved of how the High Court judge had verbatim quoted from a note handed over by the CBI to deny Mr. Chidambaram bail in the CBI part of the INX Media case.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court once again conveyed its disapproval of how the High Court has repeated its act, this time reproducing entire paragraphs from the ED affidavit in its November 15 order rejecting Mr. Chidambaram bail.

“While the learned Judge [Delhi High Court] was empowered to look at the materials produced in a sealed cover to satisfy his judicial conscience, the learned Judge ought not to have recorded finding based on the materials produced in a sealed cover,” Justice Bopanna wrote in the judgment.

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 12:49:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/leave-merits-of-a-case-for-trial-says-supreme-court/article30166216.ece

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