MADURAI: The Supreme Court’s order on May 6 extending the limitation period (statutory deadline) for filing cases, appeals and petitions during lockdown, has been interpreted in conflicting ways by two judges at the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court during hearing of two different bail petitions.
The confusion pertains to the applicability of the SC order over filing of chargesheet within stipulated time and granting default bail. Hearing a bail plea, Justice GR Swaminathan, on May 8, had held that the Supreme Court order extending limitation period does not affect a person’s right to bail when the investigation is not completed within the stipulated period under Section 167(2) of CrPC.
In his order, the Judge explained, “Section 167 (2) of CrPC does not bar the filing of final report even after the period specified therein.”He also criticised the police saying, “The executive must exhibit nimble footwork and not hide behind judicial orders. Only little children hide behind the saree end of their mothers.” Not granting default bail citing the SC order would affect a person’s personal liberty, the Judge opined and ordered release of the petitioner on default bail.
Armed with the said order, another person, an accused in an idol theft case, moved the court in the hope of getting the same relief, only to be given a different interpretation of the SC order.Listed on Monday before a different Judge, the petition was dismissed. The second order was not only contradictory to the findings of the previous order but also criticised the Judge himself. This has put the advocates, litigants and the lower courts in a fix as to which of the two orders should be followed.
Justice G Jayachandran, who passed the second order, was of the opinion that if a person says that the SC order is not applicable to the filing of final report on completion of investigation, “he just mocks the apex court order and nothing less” and that it amounts to “judicial indiscipline”.
The judge sympathised with the Police and said, “This (failure to file report) is not their fault.” Their wings are clipped and legs are tied due to lockdown.” “The SC order eclipses all provisions prescribing period of limitation until further orders. Undoubtedly, it eclipses the time prescribed under Section 167(2) of the CrPC also,” he strongly held and dismissed the petition.
It may be noted that the Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday also ruled that the SC order does not affect an accused person’s right to default bail.