In a case of possible mistaken identity, a Division Bench of the Chhattisgarh High Court has granted bail to an accused who has been languishing in jail for more than two years.
The case of Raju, who was accused of being part of a Naxalite organization involved in a murder, is a reflection of the sad state of affairs at the trial court level.
Back in 2007, a criminal case was registered against Raju and others accused of being Naxalites, for the murder of one Asha Devi. The trial court proceeded to acquit thirteen of the accused in a judgment passed in 2007. It also acquitted persons who were later arrested by the police in relation to the crime.
Nine years later, Raju was arrested on the basis of a permanent arrest warrant issued against him in 2007. Raju had taken objection to the arrest, claiming that the warrant had recorded him as being the son of Vuddy Mourya, when his father’s name was Pudgu. However, since the original records of the trial were not available, Raju’s bail application was kept pending.
The case was later transferred to a Special Court under the National Investigation Agency Act at Jagdalpur. On December 5 last year, the NIA Court rejected the bail application, on the ground that the records were not available. Thus, Raju approached the High Court in appeal.
Appearing for Raju before the Chhattisgarh High Court, advocate Shikha Pandey stated that Raju had been in jail for the last two and a half years, without any progress being made in the case. This, Pandey argued, amounted to a serious violation of his Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution, thus warranting grant of bail.
The State contended that Raju had remained absconding since 2007, and that the identity was a matter to be considered during the trial. Further, it was argued that since it was a case relating to murder in Naxalite activity, the bail application ought to be rejected.
At the outset, the Division Bench of Justices MN Shrivastava and Rajani Dubey expressed shock at the way the case has progressed.
“We are also shocked to see that even though, the present appellant was arrested way back on 19-09-2016, since then, only records are being traced.”
The missing records, which were the reason behind Raju’s continued incarceration, resurfaced only after the High Court sent a notice. The Bench noted that despite several memos sent to the Magistrate at Kondagaon calling for the records, the same could not be traced.
“We also find that memos were also sent to the District & Sessions Judge, Kondagaon for sending the records, but the records were not traceable and for want of records, no progress has taken place in the trial against the present appellant and he has remained in jail for the last two and half years without any progress whatsoever.”
In these circumstances, the Bench saw it fit to grant Raju bail on his furnishing a personal bond of Rs. 25,000. He is also required to appear before the trial court as and when required.
The Bench also ordered that all the records of the case be sent to the NIA Court forthwith, so that the trial may be completed at the earliest.
Read the order: