Delay in trial can’t be ground for bail : Madras High Court

Holding that mere delay in conducting trial in cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act doesn’t take away the bar on granting bail to suspects, the Madras HC dismissed a bail application moved by an accused arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with a murder case.

A division bench of Justice R Subbiah & Justice R Pongiappan, rejecting the submissions of S Nijam Ali alias Nijam that the trial in the criminal case will consume much time & therefore the accused languishing in jail for a considerable length of time must be enlarged on bail, said: “The nature of crime alleged to have been committed by the accused is such that the prosecution must be given adequate time to conduct the trial by examining several witnesses to prove the guilt of the accused. In this process, the trial may get protracted, however, it willn’t be a ground for this court to grant bail to the accused.”

The issue pertains to the murder of V Ramalingam, a PMK former functionary, in Thanjavur on Feb 5, 2019. It was claimed that the murder was committed by members of Popular Front of India (PFI) & its political organisation called Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) as Ramalingam objected to their ‘religious work’.

Objecting to the bail, the prosecution submitted that it has filed a memo before the trial court for hiding the identity of 15 vital witnesses, who speak about the conspiracy & overt acts of the accused.
After due consideration, the trial court allowed the memo on merits.

“Therefore, we apprehend that the protected witnesses are also living in the very same locality of the accused & there is every possibility of threat to the life of those witnesses, especially when these witnesses have to come forward & identify the accused persons during trial,” the prosecution said.

Recording the submissions, the bench said: “The trial court is directed to examine the hide-out witnesses & record their evidence at the earliest, preferably on or before June 30. Further, on completion of examination of the hide-out witnesses, the accused persons are at liberty to approach the trial court again for grant of bail.

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