Are judges under media pressure in high profile cases- while deciding on Bail?
Are the trial court judges in high profile case like 2G scam working under media pressure to deny bail to the accused?
This question was raised on Tuesday in the Supreme Court, which agreed to go into the bail principles afresh in the wake of such assertions being made by some senior advocates.
A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Altamas Kabir, the senior most judge after CJI, though pointed out that the Supreme Court had laid down the guidelines for courts below for granting bail, still the issue would be examined afresh in the light of the assertions made by the senior counsel.While fixing January 18 for fresh assessment of the guidelines, the bench also having Justices S.S. Nijjar and J. Chelameswar as the other two judges further explained that fresh guidelines had been recently laid on grant of bail by the top court in excise and income tax cases and the issue of bail in other general cases would be considered in the light of those norms.
The assurance from the top court came after senior advocates Ranjit Kumar and Mukul Rohtagi without specifically mentioning the 2G case, made an apparent reference to it with Kumar stating that the trial court judges were working under “tremendous media pressure” and fearing that any adverse publicity to their orders in high profile cases might affect their “annual confidential report (ACR)”.
Due to such a pressure, the basic principle that “bail is a rule and jail an exception” as laid down by the Supreme Court was being given a go by.
“The bail is even denied in cases where maximum punishment is only five or seven years,” Kumar said while arguing for the bail of Vikas Kumar Sinha, an alleged front man of former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda, facing charges of corruption. Kumar said Sinha had been chargesheeted by the CBI with offences carrying minimum sentence of 3 years and maximum seven years almost a year back and he was in jail for two years now.
“I don’t know when trial will begin. He has already undergone two years of sentence. Why should the accused suffer such a long incarceration before the conviction? Judges refuse to grant bail as they are afraid of their ACR. A message should go to the trial courts that the accused also have the right under the constitution,” Kumar asserted.
His views were supplemented by Rohtagi.