Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Laws of the land have made all triable offenses bailable. Offenses shown as non-bailable are also bailable at certain stages if the appropriate courts are moved by the accused person(s). So in granting bails to the alleged looters of Orissa mines, the concerned judge of Orissa High Court cannot be said to have acted ultra vires.

But when bails are granted to a gang of suspected scamsters, who, in Vigilance Director’s informed opinion, are involved in loot of Orissa mines, it somehow looks bizarre and makes one feel that there should be restriction on grant of bail on anticipation in the Higher Courts.

The issue at the crux is that the High Court of Orissa has granted bails to a gang of eight persons – seven officials and one private operator – all accused by the State Vigilance Police of involvement in loot of Orissa mines and remanded to judicial custody by an interim order of a Chief Judicial Magistrate, over and above anticipatory bail granted earlier to a private operator and de facto bail granted later to the Director of Mines.

According to the Director of Vigilance Sri Aup Patnaik, his sleuths have got materials that are indicative of involvement of these fellows in the mines scam.

This accusation is so very severe and the loot of Orissa’s mines is so very discernible that peoples feel, had the High Court not granted bails before at least the designated vigilance court goes through the charge-sheet(s) and cogitates if grant or denial of bail would be fair and proper, it would not have been violative of justice or detrimental to the dignity of the Higher Judiciary.

The Jails are overcrowded with under-trial prisoners simply because, bails are denied to so many accused persons in this land.

Denial of bail to the accused for very long time in appropriate courts, even in the High Courts as well as in the Supreme Court of India is not rare.

Not rare even instances of quashing of bails granted in lower courts when appealed in the higher courts.

The Orissa High Court has umpteen times refused to grant bails, even on appeals, holding the concerned cases “grievous”. Are the offenses against the State perpetrated allegedly by the gang that the Vigilance Police has spotted to have committed loot of Orissa mines not grievous?

How should one read the prompt grant of bails to the said gang that has obviously acted against the State by being involved in loot of Orissa mines, in the words at least of a man who heads the Vigilance Police of the Province, is something that baffles the public.

Silence of Chief Minister Navin Patnaik of Orissa over enlargement of these accused persons on bail has made the matter murkier.

His government is marked as a habitual litigant for having no hesitation in dragging the poor employees to the Supreme Court as and when any of them gets an award in his / her favour in the Administrative Tribunal or in the High Court.

So the Government’s silence over grant of bails to all the accused looters of Orissa mines makes one suspect that the government was clandestinely in favor of the bails so granted.

This, when read with the bails really granted by a judge of Orissa High Court, makes one wish that there should not be any scope for any judge of any high court or of the supreme court to allow any accused or suspected offender any anticipatory bail till the alleged offender exhausts the appropriate lower court in the matter of application for bail.

If allegations are so apparently motivated and the accusing authorities are so discernibly prejudiced or set to cook up the allegations that, unless promptly protected, an innocent person may be injured due to time consuming adjudication in the lower stair, then only the higher court should step in and allow bails with a speaking order as to why it thought it prudent to grant the bails bypassing the designated court of hearing. Otherwise, peoples privileged with power and position and purses and resources to engage wielders of legal jargon in their support, will always succeed in hoodwinking the State.

In the instant case the bailed out persons are obviously enjoying Chief Minister Navin Patnaik’s patronage. Otherwise, the State Government would certainly have gone to the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the bails granted to the gang.

So, it can be said that the bailed out persons are such well connected persons that, if they like, they can tamper with documents yet to be relied upon by the Vigilance Police and tame the time to their own advantage in such a way that prosecution may ultimately fail to prove the points.

On the other hand, as is natural, the Vigilance Police, if not making a drama of raids and raising of accusations against the gang to keep the real culprit out of public gaze, would feel demoralized over the grant of bails to the accused gang inasmuch as this action is capable of being read as judicial rejection of the Vigilance claim of prima facie proof of involvement of the gang in the mines scam.

It is a serious phenomenon the judiciary should ponder over.

It would be better if the Orissa High Court or the Supreme Court make a review of the bail-orders that have set free the mines scamsters, as the Vigilance Police, if it is not acting as the CM desires but working as ethics dictate, may be feeling demoralized over the debacle at the beginning of the case and the same feeling may continue to affect the sleuths who so painstakingly have unearthed the scam so far.

The accused gang whose involvement in the crime against the peoples of Orissa in particular and of India in general has prima facie been seen by the Vigilance Police through perusal of documents seized and on spot visit and verification, should be subjected to the jurisdiction of Vigilance Courts and if bails are denied to them there, then only let them come in appeal for bail afresh. Unless the accusation seems cooked up and the accusing investigators appear infested with ill motive and the judge in the appropriate lower court looks vitiated with prejudice against the said offenders, the High Court should not grant bails to the offenders.

The higher judiciary should appreciate that it is too precious to be used by officially located offenders to obtain anticipatory bails in any case. In the interest of the sovereignty of the peoples, justice system should not be allowed to make mockery of justice at any point of time, anywhere by imposing its orders on lower courts before they even peruse the charges.

Bail on appeal, not on anticipation should be the guiding norm.

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