Supreme Court of India.

SC stays Allahabad HC order holding fear of death due to Covid19 ground for anticipatory bail

THE Supreme Court Tuesday stayed an Allahabad High Court order holding that the apprehension of death on account of the Covid19 pandemic was a ground to grant anticipatory bail to an accused.

A vacation bench of Justices Vineet Saran and BR Gavai, however, refused to cancel the anticipatory bail granted specifically to the accused, Prateek Jain, involved in alleged forgery, cheating and fraud but made it clear that if he did not file a reply to the notice issued to him, the court would consider cancelling his bail.

“Keeping in view the totality of facts and circumstances of the present case, we direct that as far as the general observations and directions in the impugned order are concerned, the same shall remain stayed and the Courts shall not consider the said directions while considering other application for anticipatory bail, which shall be decided on the merit of each case, and not on the basis of observations made in the impugned order”, the Court directed.

The court was ruling on an appeal filed by the Uttar Pradesh government against the high court’s order granting anticipatory bail to Jain on account of the pandemic.

Appearing for UP, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the accused was involved in 130 cases and the high court chose not to go into the merit of the matter before granting him the anticipatory bail. The high court granted him the bail only on the ground of Covid19, SG Mehta added, while pointing out that the “sweeping directions” passed by the high court was being cited as a ground for seeking the bail.

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The court stayed the “sweeping” directions even as it appointed senior advocate V Giri as amicus curiae in the matter,

On May 12, the high court had held “If the right to life is not protected and permitted to be violated or imperilled, the right to personal liberty, even if protected by the court, would be of no avail”.

The right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, it added, was paramount and by implication, in a case where the commission of a non-bailable offence is alleged, the right to life of an accused person cannot be put at peril.

“The allegations may be serious against an accused but the presumption of innocence in his favour cannot be dispelled only on the basis of the allegation. An accused who has not been subjected to trial and not even a police investigation has been completed against him in many cases, cannot be compelled to surrender and obtain regular bail in the current circumstances”, the high court said.

Click here to read the order