NEW DELHI: In an important ruling, the Delhi High Court stated that an accused cannot be kept in custody only on a hunch that they will prejudice the trial and the agency prosecuting them must oppose it with cogent material that makes a case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Justice A J Bhambhani’s observation came while releasing former Fortis Healthcare promoter Shivinder Mohan Singh on bail and said, “An accused, popularly believed to be guilty, cannot be kept in custody merely to quench society’s thirst for revenge.”
Singh was booked on charges of money laundering and was directed to furnish a personal bond of Rs 1 crore and two sureties of Rs 25 lakh each as part of his bail conditions. Singh, along with his brother Malvinder Singh, and Sunil Godhwani, is accused of committing financial fraud to the tune of Rs 3,000 crores.
During the hearing, Singh’s counsel had argued that the evidence against his client had been recorded and there was nothing that warranted further incarceration. But the Enforcement Directorate argued there was a chance of Singh tampering with evidence and influencing witnesses.
“An investigating agency must come to court with the confidence that they have arrested an accused based on credible material, and have filed a complaint or a chargesheet with the certainty that they will be able to bring home guilt by satisfying a court,” the bench stated.
Under such circumstances, the judge said, it appears the agency wants an accused to remain in custody as an undertrial only to “punish the accused”. He added, “People’s trust in the criminal justice system must rest on surer footing than on pre-trial punishment.”
“Prison is a place for punishment, and no punishment can be legitimate without a trial,” Justice Bhambhani added.