Criminal Law: Person is believed to be Innocent until Found Guilty


July 10, 2018

Case name: Chandra Shekhar v. State of Himachal Pradesh

Date of Judgment: July 06, 2018

In this recent case, the High Court of Himachal Pradesh has made some remarkable observations pertaining to the legal proposition of presumption of innocence of accused in bail cases. The High Court has also made reference to catena of judgments which highlight the settled position of law.  

The High Court made the following key observations in the case:

  • That the freedom of an individual is of utmost importance and cannot be curtailed for indefinite period, especially when guilt, if any, is yet to be proved. It is settled law that till such time guilt of a person is proved, he is deemed to be innocent.
  • The High Court also made reference to Supreme Court’s recent judgment in the case of Dataram Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh & anr.[1], wherein it was held that freedom of an individual cannot be curtailed for indefinite period, especially when his/her guilt is yet to be proved. It was further held by the  Apex Court in the aforesaid judgment that a person is believed to be innocent until found guilty.
  • That the gravity of offence alone cannot be a decisive ground to deny bail, rather competing factors are required to be balanced by the court while exercising its discretion. That object of bail is to secure the appearance of the accused person at his trial by reasonable amount of bail[2]. The object of bail is neither punitive nor preventative.
  • Test to determine whether bail shall be granted on not? In this context, the High Court opined that the proper test to be applied in the solution of the question whether bail should be granted or refused is whether it is probable that the party will appear to take his trial. Otherwise also, normal rule is of bail and not jail. Apart from above, Court has to keep in mind nature of accusations, nature of evidence in support thereof, severity of the punishment, which conviction will entail, character of the accused, circumstances which are peculiar to the accused involved in that crime.
  • Principles to be kept in mind while granting determining grant or refusal bail- To deliberate on the issue, the High Court also referred to Apex Court’s observation in the case of Prasanta Kumar Sarkar versus Ashis Chatterjee and another[3], wherein the Court enumerated the following principles to be kept in mind, while deciding petition for bail:

(i) whether there is any prima facie or reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed the offence;

(ii) nature and gravity of the accusation;

(iii) severity of the punishment in the event of conviction;

(iv) danger of the accused absconding or fleeing, if released on bail;

(v) character, behaviour, means, position and standing of the accused;

(vi) likelihood of the offence being repeated;

(vii) reasonable apprehension of the witnesses being influenced; and

(viii) danger, of course, of justice being thwarted by grant of bail.

The entire case can be accessed here.

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[1] Criminal Appeal No. 227/2018

[2] Sanjay Chandra versus Central Bureau of Investigation (2012)1 Supreme Court Cases 49

[3] (2010) 14 SCC 496