SC: RIGHTS OF AN ACCUSED MUST BE PROTECTED AGAINST THE IMPOSITION OF DISPROPORTIONATE BAIL CONDITIONS
"The human right to dignity and the protection of constitutional safeguards should not become illusory by the imposition of conditions which are disproportionate to the need to secure the presence of the accused, the proper course of investigation and eventually to ensure a fair trial." Supreme Court observed while hearing the appeal for the case Parvez Noordin Lokhandwalla vs. State of Maharashtra.
The appeal was sought under an order from a Single Judge of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay dated 31 July, 2020. An order was passed against the appellant which declined his permit to travel to the US for a period of eight weeks from 25 July 2020 to 6 September 2020.
The appellant contended that he is Green Card Holder and it was mandatory for him to return to the US within a fixed period of his departure, failing which would lead to non fulfilment of his revalidation of the Green Card. However, the High Court declined on the ground that an FIR has been registered against the appellant. The following appeal raised interesting issues regarding the interface between the fundamental right to travel abroad and its curtailment under a judicial order as an incident to regulate conditions governing the grant of bail.
A FIR was registered against the appellant on 22 April 2014 in which the appellant is alleged to be involved in offences punishable under Sections 420, 467, 468, 469, 470, 471 and 474 of the Indian Penal Code 18603 read with the provisions of Section 34. The learned counsel appearing on behalf of the State of Maharashtra, who appeared in pursuance of the notice issued by this Court on 29 July 2020, submitted that the conduct of the appellant has been improper. The grant of anticipatory bail by the Sessions Court in 2018, the appellant left for the US, without seeking permission, though as a matter of fact, he returned subsequently to India on several occasions until 2020, when he was arrested. It was urged that the appellant has not complied with the conditions on which he was granted interim bail for eight weeks and he ought to have, but has not, surrendered after the period was over. It was also submitted that since the appellant is facing a criminal trial, the Court may expedite the course of the trial, but not permit him to leave for US as there is no guarantee of his return.
The two Judges Bench comprising, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indira Banerjee observed that before permitting the appellant to leave for US, the nature of allegations, the conduct of appellant and the need to ensure that he does not pose a risk of evading the prosecution needs to be evaluated. According to the furnished records it indicates the large amount of litigation between the family of the appellant and the complainant. The appellant has frequently travelled between the US and India even after the filing of the complaint and the FIR. The Court was of the of the view that the application for modification was incorrectly rejected by the High Court and the appellant ought to have been allowed to travel.
The balance between the enforcement of public interest of criminal justice and the rights and liberty of the accused is not to be misused or obstruct the course of justice.
The court accordingly permitted the appellant to travel to US provided an undertaking must be furnished before the departure date and that he will return to India after the expiry of eight weeks and he shall be available on all hearing dates before the court of criminal jurisdiction, unless specifically exempted from personal appearance.