CJ asks Bench to decide if lockdown can be reason for delaying police probe
Mohamed Imranullah S.CHENNAI 14 MAY 2020 17:44 ISTUPDATED: 14 MAY 2020 17:44 IST
Two High Court judges gave contradictory rulings in two bail applications recently
The Chief Justice of Madras High Court Amreshwar Pratap Sahi has constituted a Division Bench led by Justice P.N. Prakash to decide whether the police could cite the ongoing lockdown to contain COVID-19, as a reason for the delay in completing investigation in criminal cases and consequently oppose grant of statutory bail to the accused.
Two single judges of the High Court had taken conflicting opinions on the issue recently with one judge holding that police could not cite lockdown as a reason for not being able to complete investigation on time and another judge taking a view that the lockdown was akin to Emergency and hence the police could not be expected to act fast in such a situation.
Justice G.R. Swaminathan on May 8 granted statutory bail to G. Settu of Krishnagiri in a case of robbery since the Vallam police in Thanjavur district had failed to complete investigation and file a final report before a magistrate within 90 days, from the date of remand, as stipulated under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.Advertising
Then the police claimed that they could not complete investigation because of the lockdown and that the Supreme Court had taken such an extraordinary situation into consideration and extended the limitation period for litigants to approach courts of law. However, the judge was not convinced with the explanation offered by the prosecution.
He pointed out that Section 167(2) of Cr. P.C. entitles the accused to statutory bail if the investigation was not completed within 60 days in cases related to offences which attract less than 10 years of imprisonment and within 90 days in offences which attract higher punishment. The Supreme Court had extended limitation period only for litigants and not the prosecution.
“It is not as if crimes have not taken place during this pandemic times. Arrests are being made and accused are being remanded… The executive must exhibit nimble footwork and not hide behind judicial orders. Only little children hide behind the sari end (pallu) of their mothers,” the judge had said while allowing the bail application.
On the other hand, while dealing with a bail petition filed by S. Kasi, who had been booked in an idol theft case by Samayanallur police in Madurai district, Justice G. Jayachandran on May 11 held that the Supreme Court order extending the limitation period would apply even to the police when it comes to completing investigation and filing final reports.
In view of the contradictory views taken by two judges of the High Court, the Chief Justice decided to refer the issue to a Division Bench for an authoritative pronouncement.