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Right to be released on defaultbail; enforceable if applied, notwithstanding pendency of application

The right to be released on default bail remains enforceable if applied, notwithstanding pendency of the application- SC


M. Ravindran v. The Intelligence Officer, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence

CITATION: CRL APPEAL NO. 699 OF 2020(arising out of S.L.P. (Crl) No. 2333 of 2020)

DECIDED ON: 26.10.2020


18.2 The right to be released on default bail continues to remain enforceable if the accused has applied for such bail, notwithstanding pendency of the bail application; or subsequent filing of the chargesheet or a report seeking extension of time by the prosecution before the Court; or filing of the chargesheet during the interregnum when challenge to the rejection of the bail application is pending before a higher Court.

The present case was argued before Hon’ble Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Hon’ble Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Hon’ble Justice Vineet Saran. The Appellant was arrested and remanded to judicial custody on 04.08.2018 for the alleged offence punishable under Section 8(c) read with Sections 22(c), 23(c), 25A and 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (‘NDPS Act’). After completion of 180 days from the remand date, that is, 31.01.2019, the Appellant applied for bail under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 on 01.02.2019 before the Special Court for Exclusive Trial of Cases under the NDPS Act, Chennai on the ground that the investigation was not complete and a charge sheet had not yet been filed. The respondent filed Crl. O.P. No.9750 of 2019 before the High Court of Judicature at Madras praying to cancel the bail of the Appellant. The High Court, by the impugned judgment, allowed the said appeal and consequently cancelled the order of bail granted by the Trial Court. Being aggrieved, the Appellant has approached this Court questioning the judgment of the High Court.

The main issues to be decided are

(a) Whether the indefeasible right accruing to the appellant under Section 167(2), CrPC gets extinguished by the subsequent filing of an additional complaint by the investigating agency;

(b) Whether the Court should take into consideration the time of filing of the application for bail, based on default of the investigating agency or the time of disposal of the application for bail while answering (a)

The learned counsel for the appellant argued that argued that the High Court has misconstrued the mandate of Section 167(2), CrPC and has gravely erred in entering into the merits of the matter; that the legislative mandate conferred by Section 167(2), CrPC was lightly brushed aside by the High Court though the Appellant had rightly invoked the provisions thereof after completion of the mandatory period of 180 days, that too prior to filing of the charge sheet/additional complaint by the respondent; and that subsequent filing of chargesheet/ additional complaint by the investigating authority cannot defeat the indefeasible right of the Appellant. The learned counsel for the respondent relied upon Uday Mohanlal Acharya v. State of Maharashtra, (2001) 5 SCC 453.


The learned Additional Solicitor General argued for the respondents contended that the additional complaint was lodged while the Appellant was still in custody and prior to the disposal of the application for bail under Section 167(2), CrPC, hence there was no question of the Appellant accused furnishing the bail and consequently he was liable to continued detention in custody. He contended that the time or date of disposal of the application of bail filed under Section 167(2) is the deciding factor to adjudge whether the accused is entitled to default bail or not.

The Court after going through the submissions came to a conclusion that the right to be released on default bail continues to remain enforceable if the accused has applied for such bail, notwithstanding pendency of the bail application; or subsequent filing of the chargesheet or a report seeking extension of time by the prosecution before the Court; or filing of the chargesheet during the interregnum when challenge to the rejection of the bail application is pending before a higher Court. However, where the accused fails to apply for default bail when the right accrues to him, and subsequently a chargesheet, additional complaint or a report seeking extension of time is preferred before the Magistrate, the right to default bail would be extinguished. The Magistrate would be at liberty to take cognizance of the case or grant further time for completion of the investigation, as the case may be, though the accused may still be released on bail under other provisions of the CrPC.

Thus it was held that,

“Notwithstanding the order of default bail passed by the Court, by virtue of Explanation I to Section 167(2), the actual release of the accused from custody is contingent on the directions passed by the competent Court granting bail. If the accused fails to furnish bail and/or comply with the terms and conditions of the bail order within the time stipulated by the Court, his continued detention in custody is valid.” (Para 18.4)

“Hence the impugned judgment of the High Court stands set aside and the Trial Court judgment stands confirmed” (Para 19)


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M. Ravindran v
. The Intelligence Officer
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Kamalini

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