Courts Can Hear Pleas Striving Default Bail Over Non-Filing Of Charge Sheets: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has recently stated that the trial courts & high courts can consider default bail pleas in criminal cases on the ground of non-filing of charge sheets within the stipulated period of 60 or 90 days.

Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, an accused becomes entitled to statutory bail if probe agencies fail to file the charge sheet at the conclusion of the probe.

Investigators are granted 60 or 90 days depending on the seriousness of the crime.

The observations were made by the bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala while hearing an appeal of the Enforcement Directorate, seeking the recall of the judgment of Ritu Chhabaria.

On April 26, a different bench of the supreme court delivered the Ritu Chhabaria judgment, holding that an accused would be entitled to statutory bail even if the probe agency files an incomplete charge sheet without terminating the investigation to ensure they aren’t granted default bail.

A bench of Justices Krishna Murari and C T Ravikumar stressed that the right of default bail wasn’t merely a statutory right, but a Fundamental Right that flows from Article 21.

Also, it held the statutory bail under CrPC is an important right and it can’t be in a rush by filing charge sheets without completing the probe.

The bench headed by the CJI later took note of the Centre’s plea against the judgment and ordered those applications filed before any other court on the basis of the Ritu Chhabaria judgement be deferred till May 4, 2023.

Later, the court expands the stay on the implementation of the Ritu Chhabaria judgment till May 12.

On Friday, the CJI-led stated that, “We clarify that interim order of this Court dated May 1, 2023, shall not preclude any trial court or High Court from the grant of default bail independent of, and not relying upon, the Ritu Chhabria judgement on April 26, 2023.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre, told the bench that the government was in the process of filing a review against the judgment`.

Therefore, the court listed the plea for a hearing in July.

Earlier, NGO Campaign for Judicial Accountability & Reforms (CJAR) expressed concern over the order passed by the CJI-led bench which stayed the implementation of the Ritu Chhabariya judgment.

Moreover, the NGO said that the judgment reiterated a bathetic point of law that default bail under section 167 of the CrPC is a fundamental right.

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