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Supreme Court: “Liberty Of Citizen Is Of Paramount Importance”

The Supreme Court while hearing a plea from an accused challenging a Bombay High Court order dated March 30, 2023, which disposed of his bail application but allowed him to file a similar plea before the trial court.

The High Court noted the accused’s nearly seven-and-a-half-year incarceration and mentioned his previous withdrawal of a similar plea in April 2022.

The Supreme Court today stressed the importance of a person’s freedom, stating that delaying decisions on such matters could violate the fundamental right protected by Article 21 of the Constitution. They noted that Article 21, safeguarding life and personal liberty, is central to the Constitution. The Court expressed concern over the Bombay High Court’s slow handling of bail and anticipatory bail cases.

“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,” a bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta said in a February 16 order.

“We, therefore, request the chief justice of the High Court of Bombay to convey our request to all the judges exercising the criminal jurisdiction to decide the matter pertaining to bail/anticipatory bail as expeditiously as possible,” the bench said.

“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 said. “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 said.

The bench emphasized that Article 21 of the Constitution of India is integral to its essence, highlighting the paramount importance of a citizen’s liberty. It cautioned against delaying decisions concerning a citizen’s liberty, as such delays could deprive individuals of their invaluable rights ensured by Article 21.

On January 29 this year, the Supreme Court quashed the March 2022 High Court order and instructed it to decide the case based on its merits within two weeks. Subsequently, on February 12, the High Court granted bail to the accused.

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