Supreme Court Order : Bail Cannot Be Made Conditional Upon Heavy Deposits Beyond The Financial Capacity Of Applicant

Holding that bail cannot be made conditional upon heavy deposit beyond the financial capacity of the applicant, the Supreme Court has modified an order passed by the Madras High Court.

The applicant was one M D Dhanapal, who was the Chief Priest of a temple in Thiruchirappalli district in Tamil Nadu, where seven pilgrims had died on April 20 in a stampede. He was arrested by police pursuant to an FIR registered for the mishap.

When he applied for release on bail, the Madras High Court imposed a condition that he should pay ten lakh rupees each to the families of the deceased persons. That meant that he had to pay a hefty sum of rupees seventy lakhs to the heirs of the dead pilgrims.

The order was imposed based on an undertaking made by the counsel that the applicant was willing to compensate the families of deceased persons by paying them ten lakh rupees each. But later Dhanapal filed an application for lifting the condition by saying that he was earning meager income by giving devotional services in a temple and that the condition was way above his financial capacity. However the High Court dismissed it by merely extending the time by three weeks.

In this backdrop, the applicant approached the Supreme Court. The bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi allowed the petition observing : “If the petitioner lacks funds, undertaking ought not to have been given. Be that as it may, it is well settled that bail cannot be made conditional upon heavy deposits beyond the financial capacity of an applicant for bail”. The bench also noticed that the petitioner was not named in the FIR, and that there was nothing to indicate that he was responsible for the mishap. The petition was allowed, waiving the condition of making payment.