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Courts must consider possible threat to victims and witnesses while granting bail to the accused: Supreme Court [READ JUDGEMENT]

On a criminal appeal, the Supreme Court has reversed the order of the Allahabad High Court to grant bail to the accused who was arrested under the U.P. Gangster and Anti-Social Activities(Prevention) Act, 1986. 

By: N.Pooja Reddy, KLE Law College(Bengaluru)

In the case of Sudha Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the appellant is the wife of the deceased who has been allegedly murdered by the accused, a contract killer and sharpshooter. He was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court. Thereafter, the appellant challenged the bail by appealing in the Supreme Court.

The appeal contended that the High Court has granted bail on very liberal terms as it has ignored the antecedents of the accused and the potential to repeat his acts by organising his criminal activities. It was further  contended that the grant of bail in a routine manner to gangsters has had an adverse effect in the past, upon the law and order situation. Thus, it was important for the High court to be extremely careful while releasing serious offenders.

The Supreme Court held that the high court has overlooked several aspects, such as the potential threat to witnesses, forcing the trial court to grant protection.

“It is needless to point out that in cases of this nature, courts mustn’t enlarge an accused on bail with a blinkered vision by just taking into account only the parties before them and the incident in question. Courts must consider the impact that release of such persons on bail will have on the witnesses yet to be examined and the innocent members of the family of the victim who might be the next victims”, held the Supreme Court.

In Prasanta Kumar Sarkar vs. Ashis Chatterjee and Another, the Supreme Court held that it would not be interfering with the High Court’s order of granting bail or rejecting bail to the accused. But, the following point needs to be taken into consideration while doing so,

(i) Whether there was a prima facie or reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed the offence; 

(ii) nature and gravity of accusations; 

(iii) the severity of the punishment in the event of a conviction; 

(iv) the danger of the accused absconding or fleeing, if granted bail;

(v)  character, behaviour, means, position, and standing of the accused;

(vi)  likelihood of repetition of the offence;

(vii) reasonable apprehension of the witnesses being influenced; and

(viii)the danger of justice being thwarted by grant of bail.

“There is no doubt that liberty is important, even that of a person charged with a crime but the courts need to recognise the potential threat to the life and liberty of victims/witnesses if such accused is released on bail”, the Court said. 

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