Liberty of citizen is of paramount importance, says SC

New Delhi: The liberty of a citizen is of paramount importance and not deciding a matter pertaining to it expeditiously will deprive a person of the precious right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has said.

Observing that Article 21, which deals with protection of life and personal liberty, is the “soul” of the Constitution, the apex court recently said it has come across various matters from the Bombay High Court where bail or anticipatory bail applications are not being decided expeditiously.

“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 B R 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 asked the registrar (judicial) of the apex court to communicate its order to the registrar (judicial) of the high court who would place it before chief justice shall place it before the Bombay High Court chief justice.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by an accused who had challenged a March 30, 2023 Bombay High Court order disposing of his bail application while permitting him to file such a plea before the trial court.

While observing that the accused was in jail for about seven-and-a-half-years, the high court said it appeared that prior to the filing of the bail application, the accused had filed a similar plea which was withdrawn in April 2022.

On January 29 this year, the top court quashed the high court order of March last year and asked it to decide the matter on merits within two weeks. Following this, the high court on February 12 gave bail to the accused. (PTI)

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