The Calcutta High Court recently ruled that persons accused of offences under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act would also be covered by the Supreme Court's judgment in Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee vs. Union of India which dealt with the grant of bail on ground of inordinate delay in trial, the Court has also asked the State to furnish details of those who have been in jail for 5 years or more in NDPS cases so that it can be granted to them as well.
Before the Court was an accused under the NDPS Act who had undergone custody for five years and six months, with only two witnesses having been examined till date.
Therefore, he moved the High Court for grant of bail, invoking the top Court's ruling in Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee vs. Union of India.
Justices Joymalya Bagchi and Suvra Ghosh allowed his release on bail, opining that the Supreme Court's ruling is applicable in NDPS cases as well. The State had opposed the plea for bail under Section 37 of the NDPS Act.
The Bench, however, pointed out that bail is being sought not on merit but on the ground of inordinate delay, in which case the right would flow from Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Bench explained that the "Right of bail to an undertrial flows from Article 21 of the Constitution of India which frowns upon unnecessary and prolonged detention pending judicial adjudication of guilt." The Court added that the "procedure established by law" referred in Article 21 cannot be viewed in isolation from principles of "equal justice‟ or "equality before law‟ enshrined under Article 14.
It added that the Supreme Court's directions cannot be whittled down or restricted by the operation of Section 436 A CrPC. Supreme Court was also conscious of the statutory restrictions under Section 37 of the NDPS Act.
Advocates Debasis Kar, Arka Chakraborty, Husen Mustafi and Subhajit Chowhdur appeared for the petitioner. ASG YJ Dastoor and Advocate Amajit De appeared for the Union of India. Advocate KK Maiti appeared for the opposite party.