Unprecedented rise in bail petitions due to Bihar Liquor Act: High

The Patna High Court said that 25 percent of the regular bail petitions come under the Bihar Excise Act. (file)

New Delhi: The Patna High Court has told the Supreme Court that there has been an “unprecedented increase” in the filing of bail applications due to the imposition of prohibition in the state and about 25 per cent of the regular bail petitions are being filed only under the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act. ,

The High Court said it is working with less than half of its sanctioned strength and the regular bail applications are getting delayed due to increase in filing of bail applications.

It informed the Supreme Court that at present 39,622 bail applications, including 21,671 anticipatory and 17,951 regular bail applications, are pending before the prescribed benches. In addition, 36,416 fresh bail applications, including 20,498 anticipatory and 15,918 regular bail applications, are yet to be considered.

On January 11, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana had dismissed a batch of petitions by the Bihar government in another case seeking anticipatory and regular bail to the accused under the state’s stringent liquor law. The challenge was given. Court.

A bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Abhay S Oka expressed serious concern over the long imprisonment of undertrials due to pendency of bail applications before the High Court and delay in hearing of their bail applications.

It sought suggestions from the parties to the case and advocate Shoaib Alam, who was present in the court.

“At this stage, it is also pertinent to mention that there has been an unprecedented increase in regular bail applications due to the imposition of prohibition in the state of Bihar. Roughly 25 per cent of regular bail applications are coming under the Bihar Excise Act. The Patna High Court has said in its affidavit that this has delayed the disposal of regular bail petitions.

Advocate Gaurav Agrawal, appearing for Patna High Court, submitted that the court is functioning at less than half of its sanctioned strength with 25 judges.

He said, “As of December 2021, 39,622 bail applications were pending before the assigned benches and about 36,000 fresh bail applications are yet to be considered. The disposal of cases was being monitored by the Chief Justice on a daily basis and all efforts were being made to clear the pending cases.

The top court was hearing a plea by petitioner Abhayanand Sharma, represented by advocate AR Takkar, who moved the apex court in a writ petition in the offense of an Excise Act, aggrieved by non-listing of his regular bail application by the Patna High Court. The door was knocked on. Court.

The top court said it is a matter of concern whether anticipatory bail applications are becoming infructuous as they were taken up for the first time a year after they were filed and instead regular bail applications were to be filed.

The bench agreed with the suggestion made by advocate Shoaib Alam that from the point of view of Article 21 and in order to reduce the burden on the High Court, “the provisions of Section 436-A CrPC should be employed, which grants statutory bail to any person”. Provides that a person facing an inquiry or trial, if such person has been in custody for more than half of the maximum punishment specified for that offence”.

Mr. Alam said that in 2015, a three-judge bench of the apex court had directed the jurisdictional magistrates and sessions judges to visit the prisons in their jurisdiction at least once every week and from the prison itself for the eligible prisoners under the said provision. was directed to grant statutory bail. ,

He also submitted that despite the efforts being made by the High Court, most of the cases which were hearing on priority basis were those where the Supreme Court had directed or mentioned, The High Court itself agreed to list the matter forthwith.

The bench said it was also concerned as to why so many bail petitions were being filed before the High Court in the first instance.

Referring to petty offenses and triable offenses of the magistrate, the bench observed: “Once the investigation is over and the charge sheet has been filed, why should bail not be granted.”

The bench, however, said that it would not interfere with the working of the High Court, but would place the suggestions before the Chief Justice of the High Court for consideration as it is the one who is aware of the ground reality and is best suited to regulate. Court functioning.

On January 11, the CJI told the counsel appearing for the Bihar government, “You know how much impact this law (Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016) has had in the functioning of the Patna High Court and a It’s taking years. The matter is listed there and all the courts are engrossed in the liquor bail matters.”

Justice Ramana, while dismissing 40 appeals of the state government against grant of advance and regular cases, said, “I am told that 14-15 High Court judges are hearing these bail matters every day and no other matters.” being picked up.” by the High Court.

The observations assume significance as the CJI had recently referred to the Bihar Liquor Prohibition Act at a function in Andhra Pradesh’s Amaravati and said that it has resulted in a lot of bail applications being filed in the courts and the state high court.

The CJI had said that the lack of foresight in making laws can directly create obstruction in the courts.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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