SC stays Raj HC order directing suspension of sentences, bail pleas to not be listed as “urgent matters”

The single judge bench order went into appeal as the High Court itself approached the apex court against it

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On April 3, the Supreme Court put an interim stay on a Rajasthan High Court order given by a single judge bench which had directed that matters such as bail applications, appeals for suspension of statements and appeals under the SC/ST Act be not treated as urgent matters, amidst the lockdown.

This order was passed by a single judge bench Justice Pankaj Bhandari on March 31, in which it was stated that “Release of an accused or convict at the cost of breaching the order of lockdown and sending at the cost of risking lives of many cannot be considered to fall within the category of “extreme urgent matter.” It is also relevant to note that Rajasthan High Court has Holi, Dashera, Diwali and Winter vacations ranging from few days to few weeks during which period also Bail applications and applications for suspension of sentence are not taken up by the Court.”

The court also took note that it had received information from Director General of Prisons stating that there is no overcrowding in the prisons and that there are regular medical check-ups taking place. Taking this information into account the single judge bench seems to have made this decision that bail applications and pleas for suspension of sentences are not urgent matters. The Judge had also opined that release of convicts would put the lives of many in danger, thus proving counter productive to the measures being taken to combat COVID-19.

The single judge bench had stated that if a bail application or an appeal under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 [SC/ST Act] is allowed, many other procedures such as sending order to the Court, appearance of sureties before the Court, and presence of advocates for identification of sureties would follow and this would only increase the workload of the courts. Hence the bench found that in the current scenario, bail applications, appeals under the SC/ST Act, and applications for suspension of sentence not be treated as urgent matters and hence not be kept for hearing until withdrawal of lockdown in the country.

This order came even after the Supreme Court had directed all state governments to consider releasing convicts sentenced for crimes of lesser magnitude in order to protect prisoners. Aggrieved by this order, the Rajasthan High Court itself approached the Supreme Court and asked for a stay on this order. On April 3, the Supreme Court passed an interim order staying the operation of the directions in the order while issuing notices.

The Supreme Court order may be read here.


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