Absence of sanction in charge sheet under UAPA no ground for default bail: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said that an accused in an UAPA case cannot seek default bail on the ground that the charge sheet filed within the stipulated time period was incomplete due to absence of valid sanction from competent authority.

A bench, comprising Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice J.B. Pardiwala, noted that the maximum period of 180 days, which is being granted to the investigating agency to complete the investigation for prosecution for an offence under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), is not something in the form of a package that everything has to be completed, including obtaining of sanction, within this period of 180 days.

It said the investigating agency has nothing to do with sanction and sanction is altogether a different process — accorded, based on the materials collected by the investigating agency which forms the part of the final report under Section 173 of the CrPC.

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“The investigating agency gets a full 180 days to complete the investigation. To say that obtaining of sanction and placing the same along with the charge sheet should be done within the period of 180 days is something which is not only contrary to the provisions of law…. but is inconceivable,” said Justice Pardiwala, who authored the judgment on behalf of the bench.

The bench said the evidence collected by the investigating agency in the form of charge sheet is thoroughly looked into and thereafter, the recommendations are made. The investigating agency gets a full 180 days to complete the investigation and file its report before the competent court in accordance with Section 173(2) of the CrPC, it said.

Justice Pardiwala said: “If we accept the argument canvassed on behalf of the appellants, it comes to this that the investigating agency may have to adjust the period of investigation in such a manner that within the period of 180 days, the sanction is also obtained and placed before the court. We find this argument absolutely unpalatable.”

The bench observed that this court was of the firm view that if on either the 61st day or the 91st day, an accused makes an application for being released on bail in default of charge sheet having been filed, the court has no option but to release the accused on bail.

“However, once the charge sheet was filed within the stipulated period, the right of the accused to statutory/default bail came to an end and the accused would be entitled to pray for regular bail on merits,” it noted.

The apex court dismissed a plea by Judgebir Singh alias Jasbir Singh and others challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s judgment, rejecting their contention for default bail due to absence of valid sanction in the charge sheet.

The bench said it is evident that the order of sanction passed by the competent authority can be produced and placed on record even after the filing of the charge sheet. It said that it may happen that the inordinate delay in placing the order of sanction before the special court may lead to delay in trial because the competent court will not be able to take cognisance of the offence without a valid sanction on record.

“In such an eventuality, at the most, it may be open for the accused to argue that his right to have a speedy trial could be said to have been infringed, thereby violating Article 21 of the Constitution. This may at the most entitle the accused to pray for regular bail on the ground of delay in trial. But the same cannot be a ground to pray for statutory/default bail under the provisions of Section 167(2) of the CrPC,” said Justice Pardiwala.

He said that Rule 3 of the Rules 2008 makes it explicitly clear that the authority under sub section (2) of Section 45 of the UAPA is obliged in law to apply its mind thoroughly to the evidence gathered by the investigating officer and thereafter, prepare its report containing the recommendations to the Central government or the state government for the grant of sanction.

“The grant of sanction is not an idle formality. The grant of sanction should reflect proper application of mind,” he said.

The bench noted that according sanction is the duty of the sanctioning authority who is not connected with the investigation at all and in case, the sanctioning authority takes some time to accord sanction, that does not vitiate the final report filed by the investigating agency before the court.

“Section 173 of the CrPC does not speak about the sanction order at all. Section 167 of the CrPC also speaks only about investigation and not about cognisance by the Magistrate. Therefore, once a final report has been filed, that is the proof of completion of investigation and if final report is filed within the period of 180 days or 90 days or 60 days from the initial date of remand of accused concerned, he cannot claim that a right has accrued to him to be released on bail for want of filing of sanction order,” said the bench.

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