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SC Grants Bail to Man Held for 10 Years Without Trial, Orders Swift Discharge

SC Grants Bail to Man Held for 10 Years Without Trial, Orders Swift Discharge

The Supreme Court has authorized the release on bail of a man who has endured a decade in custody without the conclusion of his trial. Within the span of one week, he will be presented before the Trial Court for discharge under suitable terms and conditions, following a hearing involving the Public Prosecutor.

The order was issued by Justices Abhay S. Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan, who took into account the appellant's ten years of imprisonment, with witnesses yet to be examined. During the hearing, the Public Prosecutor revealed that six additional official witnesses were yet to testify.

Expressing dissatisfaction, Justice Oka audibly remarked, "Ten years have passed... in that time, how many witnesses have been examined?" To which the State counsel responded, "Twenty-one."

The court emphasized that the appellant's counsel must cooperate fully with the Trial Court to expedite the resolution of the case. A statement from the appellant's counsel was duly recorded before the Trial Court, affirming the commitment to refrain from employing any delaying tactics.

Furthermore, the court clarified that if the appellant fails to cooperate in the expeditious resolution of the case, the State will have the option to petition for the cancellation of bail.

The appellant was arrested in 2014 and initially filed a bail application before the Special Court, which was rejected in 2018. Subsequently, he pursued a bail plea before the Bombay High Court, which was disposed of with two directives: firstly, for the trial Judge to conclude the trial within six months, and secondly, for the trial Judge to provide periodic reports to the High Court Registry every three weeks until the trial's conclusion.

Feeling aggrieved by this directive, the appellant appealed to the Top court, which served notice to the respondent-State. The court observed that the appellant had endured a decade of incarceration and, as per his counsel's statement, only 16 out of 30 witnesses had been examined. Furthermore, the court expressed a preliminary opinion that instead of adjudicating the bail application on its merits, the High Court had engaged in what appeared to be "advisory jurisdiction," offering guidance to the prosecutors, defense attorneys, and Trial Court.

While criticizing the High Court's decision for disregarding the appellant's prolonged incarceration, the top Court reiterated that courts cannot issue "advice" through judicial orders. Consequently, it stayed the directive requiring the Trial Court to provide periodic reports on the trial's progress.

On the last date, the State was directed to apprise the number of adjournments sought by the appellant as well as the Public Prosecutor, besides the number of witnesses the State still proposed to examine.

Appearance: AoR Rishi Malhotra

Case Title: Yogesh Narayan Raut v. State of Maharashtra, SLP(Crl) No. 3494/2024

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