DELHI HIGH COURT CONSIDERED THE SATISFACTORY CONDUCT OF THE PETITIONER IN JUDICIAL CUSTODY AND GRANTED CONDITIONAL BAIL
A Single-judge Bench of the High Court of Delhi (High Court) comprising of Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar, passed an Order dated 22-12-2023 in the matter of Yogesh @ Govardhan vs. State Govt. Of NCT of Delhi Bail Application. 3069/2023 and observed that as the Petitioner has already completed more than half of the minimum sentence imposed for the Offence under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act 1985 (NDPS) and as the conduct of the Petitioner while in custody was satisfactory, hence, the High Court held that further detention of the Petitioner would be a violation of the principles of natural justice.
i) That the aforesaid Bail Application was filed before the Hon’ble High Court by one Yogesh @ Govardhan (Petitioner / Accused) against the State Govt. Of NCT of Delhi (Respondent), who filed the Application under Section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (P.C.) (Special powers of High Court or Court of Session regarding bail) seeking Regular Bail in FIR No. 183/2018 under Section 20 of NDPS Act (Punishment for contravention in relation to cannabis plant and cannabis) and Section 25 of NDPS Act (Punishment for allowing premises, etc., to be used for commission of an offence) registered at Police Station Crime Branch.
ii) That the Law Enforcement Authority apprehended the Accused near the gate of the Gandhi National Museum in Delhi on 14.07.2018, at approximately 04:30 a.m. The Accused, who was driving a silver-colored Honda City car, had his vehicle searched. Three plastic bags containing 110 Kg of Ganja were recovered from the backseat of the car. Subsequently, samples were drawn, sent by the Police to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) for examination, and the Accused was taken into custody.
iii) Thereafter, the Petitioner, through their Counsel, argued for bail based on the ground that they had been in judicial custody for about 5 years and 5 months. Citing the Legal Precedent set by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Undertrial Prisoners v. UOI & Ors. (1994 (6) SCC 731), it was contended that once an Accused, underwent under trial for an offence carrying a minimum punishment of 10 years, he is entitled to bail if they have spent more than half of the minimum sentence in jail. This, it was argued, would be a deprivation of fundamental rights as enshrined under Articles 20 of the Constitution of India (Protection in respect of conviction for offences) and 21 of the Constitution (Protection of life and personal liberty).
iv) The Counsel for the Petitioner further supported their case by referencing specific judgments from the Court, including Gurmito versus CBI (Bail Application No. 1621/2022 decided on 20.07.2022); Sarvan Kumar @ Kishan Versus State (Bail Application No. 956/2022 decided on 18.07.2022)[i], Anil Kumar @ Nillu versus State (Bail Application No. 1724/2022 decided on 21.03.2022)[ii].
v) The Prosecution, represented by the Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP), opposed the Bail Application and emphasized that the quantity of Ganja recovered (110 kg) falls under the category of commercial quantity. Further, the APP argued that the cited Supreme Court judgment is not binding in all cases, as each case has its own set of facts and circumstances. Additionally, it was pointed out that the Petitioner is involved in another pending case, FIR 237/2016.
vi) After hearing both sides and considering the records, the Court, in its Order, granted Bail to the Petitioner based on the circumstances, the time spent in custody, and the cited legal precedents. Various conditions were imposed on the Petitioner, including furnishing a personal bond, providing a mobile phone number to the Investigating Officer, not leaving the country without Court permission, and refraining from engaging in any criminal activity during the Bail period. The said Order emphasized that it did not express any opinion on the merits of the case.
As discussed above, aggrieved by the arrest, the Petitioner filed an Application for Regular Bail under Section 439 Cr.P.C before the Delhi High Court. The Petitioner, Yogesh @ Govardhan, sought bail in connection with FIR No. 183/2018 under Sections 20 and 25 of the NDPS Act, registered at the Crime Branch Police Station.
1) The High Court recognized that the Offence under Section 20 of the NDPS Act carries a minimum sentence of rigorous imprisonment for 10 years. Further, the Hon’ble Court noted that, according to the nominal roll on record, the Petitioner had been in judicial custody for about 5 years and 5 months.
2) Thereafter, the Hon’ble High Court acknowledged that, during the period of judicial custody, the conduct of the Petitioner in jail had been satisfactory. Considering the significant duration of the Petitioner’s custody (more than 5 years), the Court expressed the view that keeping the Petitioner in custody for an indefinite period is not justifiable.
3) Further, the Court considered the circumstances and anticipated that the Trial was likely to take a considerable amount of time. Moreover, the High Court relied on legal precedents, including judgments from the Hon’ble Supreme Court and its own decisions, submitted by the Counsel for the Petitioner to support the Petitioner’s plea for bail. It indicated to the Court that the precedents have been considered in similar cases with facts and circumstances akin to the present case.
4) Based on the above considerations, the Court decided to grant bail to the Petitioner. However, it imposed certain conditions on the Petitioner to ensure compliance and address any potential concerns. These conditions included furnishing of a personal bond, providing a working mobile phone number to the Investigating Officer, obtaining prior permission before leaving the country, and refraining from engaging in criminal activities during the Bail period.
Based on the aforementioned observations, upon a thorough consideration of the case at hand, the High Court, granted Bail to the Petitioner in the NDPS Act case. In its decision, the Court took into account, the severity of the minimum sentence for the offence and the Petitioner’s term spent in judicial custody i.e. 5 years and 5 months, coupled with their satisfactory jail conduct. In anticipation of an extended trial, the Court referenced legal precedents, particularly those from the Supreme Court and its own decisions, while emphasizing its inability to hold the Petitioner in custody indefinitely. Therefore, the Court granted Bail to the Petitioner, subject to certain conditions, such as a personal bond and restrictions on travel and criminal activities etc. Notably, the Court refrained from expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, instead choose to carefully consider the relevant circumstances, legal principles, and the Petitioner’s rights in rendering its verdict.
The Indian Lawyer
“The rigors of Section 37 of the NDPS Act would thus not come in the way while dealing with a bail application moved by an undertrial who has remained in custody for more than half of the minimum sentence.”
[ii] Anil Kumar @ Nillu versus State (Bail Application No. 1724/2022 decided on 21.03.2022).
“held that rigors of Section 37 NDPS Act would not stand in the way while dealing with a bail application moved by an undertrial who has remained in custody for more than half of the minimum sentence prescribed in the sections under which the undertrial has been charged with”.