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Judiciary

'Roster not an empty formality,' SC sets aside interim bail after change of roster [Read Order]

By Jhanak Singh      14 February, 2024 09:03 PM      0 Comments
Roster not an empty formality SC sets aside interim bail after change of roster Read Order

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has stressed upon the principle of propriety, saying the roster notified by the Chief Justice is not an empty formality and all judges are bound by it.

A bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan said no bench can hear a particular case unless assigned by the Chief Justice as per the roster.

The court found as "shocking" a Bombay High Court bench after the change of roster passed an order of interim bail to an accused in a money laundering case without hearing the parties and recording reasons.

The bench set aside the order granting interim bail to accused Bablu Sonkar and remanded the matter for a fresh hearing after his surrender.

The court passed its order on a plea by the Enforcement Directorate, which contended the High Court bench on June 26, 2023 de-reserved the order and granted interim bail to the accused in its proceedings inside the chamber.

The High Court had said the order was passed "in order to strike balance between the competing rights of the prosecution and the petitioner/ accused person".

The apex court said the moment the HC bench directed that the case was released and it should be heard afresh, the propriety required that the HC bench should not have passed any order on merits, as the roster of the writ petition was with another bench on that day.

"What is shocking is that after releasing the case, when admittedly there was no prayer made by the first respondent for grant of bail, the bench granted bail for releasing the first respondent. Even during the pendency of writ petition, bail was not granted to the first respondent though a prayer for interim relief of grant of bail was made in the petition," the bench said.

The court also said even if such a prayer would have been made on the day, the High Court bench could not have heard the prayer for bail as only the roster bench could have heard the same.

"On that day, the advocate for the first respondent admittedly did apply for bail. Therefore, the appellants were not heard on the prayer for bail. Moreover, bail was granted in an offence under the PMLA without recording any reasons. Bail cannot be granted in such a case only to “strike a balance”," the bench said.

 

[Read Order]



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