SC Stresses Expedited Resolution for Citizen Liberty Under Article 21

The Supreme Court has emphasized the paramount importance of a citizen’s liberty, stating that failing to promptly decide matters concerning it would infringe upon the precious right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Describing Article 21 as the “soul” of the Constitution, the apex court recently noted instances from the Bombay High Court where bail or anticipatory bail applications lingered without swift resolution.

“We have also come across numerous matters wherein the judges are not deciding the matter on merits but find an excuse to shunt the case on different grounds,” remarked a bench comprising Justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta.

The bench urged the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court to relay their request to all judges exercising criminal jurisdiction, emphasizing the need to expedite the resolution of bail/anticipatory bail matters.

“Needless to state that Article 21 of the Constitution of India is the soul of the Constitution as the liberty of a citizen is of paramount importance,” the bench reiterated.

“Not deciding the matter pertaining to liberty of a citizen expeditiously and shunting away the matter on one or the other ground would deprive the party of their precious right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” it added.

The bench directed the registrar (judicial) of the Supreme Court to communicate its order to the registrar (judicial) of the Bombay High Court, who would subsequently present it before the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court.

The Apex Court addressed this matter while hearing a plea filed by an accused challenging a March 30, 2023, Bombay High Court order disposing of his bail application and directing him to file such a plea before the trial court. Noting that the accused had been in jail for approximately seven-and-a-half years, the high court observed that prior to the filing of the bail application, the accused had submitted a similar plea which was withdrawn in April 2022.

On January 29 of the current year, the Supreme Court nullified the high court order from March last year, instructing it to decide the matter on merits within two weeks. Consequently, the high court granted bail to the accused on February 12.

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