Courts can grant default bail independent of and not relying upon Ritu Chhabria judgment: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court on Friday clarified that its interim order to all courts to defer applications filed based on the Ritu Chhabaria judgment will not affect the right of courts to grant default bail.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud as well as Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala was informed by Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra for an intervenor that due to the Court’s interim order dated May 1, his client’s rights were being curtailed.

Accordingly, the CJI offered to issue a clarification that the order will not impede courts from deciding default bail applications.

“We clarify that interim order of this Court dated May 1, 2023, shall not preclude any trial court or High Court from the grant of default bail independent of and not relying upon the Ritu Chhabria judgment on April 26, 2023,” the Court stated.

After Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta informed the Court that the Central government was in the process of filing a review against the Ritu Chhabaria judgment, the Court directed that the matter be listed in July.

The Bench was hearing the Central government’s application seeking the recall of a top court verdict which ruled that an accused will be entitled to default bail if an incomplete chargesheet is filed by the investigating agency.

The Court had, on April 26, ruled in the case of Ritu Chhabaria v. Union of India that default bail under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) is an important right and it cannot be scuttled by filing chargesheets before the probe is complete.

A Bench of Justices Krishna Murari and CT Ravikumar had stressed that the right of default bail was not merely a statutory right, but a fundamental one that flows from Article 21 of the Constitution.

Hence, a chargesheet cannot be filed before completing investigation only to deprive the accused person of default bail, the Court had underlined.

The Central government subsequently sought a recall of this judgment. On Monday, a Bench headed by the CJI ordered that in the event any other applications have been filed before any other court on the basis of the Ritu Chhabaria judgment, they shall be deferred beyond May 4, 2023.

The government contended that the Ritu Chhabaria ruling is per incuriam since it “failed to even consider the prior binding decision of a co-equal bench in Dinesh Dalmia which lays down a contrary principle of law, which has held the field for the past 16 years”.

In the Dalmia case, the Supreme Court had held that thecCourt which had taken cognizance of the offence may exercise its power to grant police custody during further investigation, subject to the fulfillment of the requirements and the limitation under Section 167(2) CrPC.

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