The Kerala High Court held that the imposition of arbitrary conditions during the grant of statutory/default bail constitutes a blatant infringement of the fundamental rights accorded to the detenue under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The Sessions Court had granted bail to the accused under certain stipulations, necessitating land ownership and the involvement of relatives as surety.

While imposing conditions in default bail, the Court can only impose such conditions to ensure that the accused will appear before the court concerned for trial and will also co-operate with the investigation. An accused in detention shall be released on bail after the period of detention mentioned in Section 167(2), if he is prepared to and furnish bail. This statutory right cannot be circumvented by imposing onerous conditions. Such arbitrary condition imposed while granting statutory bail amount to infringement of the fundamental right of the detenue under Article 21 of the Constitution of India”, the Bench of Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan observed.

Advocate Arun Roy appeared for Petitioner and Public Prosecutor MP Prasanth approach for Respondent.

The Petitioner, identified as the First Accused, was charged with offences under Sections 22(b) and 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act). The prosecution alleged that the Accused were discovered in possession of 1.75 grams of MDMA inside a hotel room in Edapally. The Petitioner was arrested at the scene, presented before the jurisdictional Magistrate, and subsequently placed in judicial custody.

He applied for bail twice before the Sessions Court which was dismissed. He filed another bail petition which was allowed by the Sessions Court. The Petitioner, from a financially challenged family without land ownership, contested Conditions 3 and 4 in the order, asserting that relatives won't act as surety. The Petitioner, unable to meet bail bond requirements, especially due to the contested conditions, filed a Petition before the High Court seeking to nullify Conditions 3 and 4 in the granted bail order.

The Court framed the following issue:

whether stringent conditions can be imposed while granting default bail under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short, Cr.P.C.)

The Court noted that the Petitioner ought to be granted default bail as a statutory right under Section 167(2) of the CrPC. The Court emphasized that when default bail is granted, stringent conditions are not permissible.

Furthermore, the Bench observed that when setting conditions for default bail, the court is authorized to do so solely to guarantee the accused's presence at the trial and cooperation with the investigation. If an accused in detention is willing to provide bail after the specified period in Section 167(2), this statutory right cannot be bypassed through the imposition of burdensome conditions. Imposing arbitrary conditions during the grant of statutory bail constitutes a violation of the fundamental rights of the detainee under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Citing the Supreme Court Judgment in the case of Shaik Nazneen v State of Telangana [2023 (9) SCC 633], the Bench observed that imposing onerous conditions on statutory bail infringes on the Accused's fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Additionally, considering the petitioner's claim that Conditions 3 and 4 are onerous, the Court held that tax receipts could work as an alternative to original property deeds for sureties.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Petition and set aside conditions 3 and 4 in the bail order.

Cause Title: Vishnu Sajanan v State Of Kerala (2023:KER:76193)

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