Calcutta High Court Grants Undertrial Temporary Bail, Affirms Right to Personal Liberty

Calcutta High Court grants temporary bail to undertrial, affirming right to personal liberty. Case: Manaranjan Mandal vs. State of West Bengal.

In a recent ruling, the Calcutta High Court affirmed the principle that undertrials, presumed innocent until proven guilty, have the right to seek interim bail, akin to convicts being granted parole or furlough. The Division Bench comprising Justices Tapabrata Chakraborty and Biswaroop Chowdhury made this observation while granting temporary bail for four weeks to a rape accused in the case of Manaranjan Mandal @ Manoranjan Mandal @ Liton vs. State of West Bengal, on April 9.

The Court's decision came after considering the petitioner's plea, who had been in custody for 2 years and 10 months. Notably, all witnesses in the case had been examined, leaving only the question of whether it was reasonable for the petitioner, aged 23 years, to seek bail at this juncture.

"The answer is obviously no," remarked the bench, emphasizing the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven. The bench stressed that undertrial prisoners have a legitimate expectation that their right to personal liberty be maintained during trial, even if it entails certain restrictions, rather than outright detention.

Furthermore, the bench underscored the mental anguish and trauma experienced by individuals under custodial detention, especially at a young age, and advocated for measures to alleviate such suffering, particularly during the pre-trial stage. The Court noted that prolonged detention without bail can lead to loss of contact with family, resulting in stress and depression.

The Court compared the provision of parole and furlough available to convicts to temporarily leave prison to the situation of undertrials. It questioned why undertrials couldn't be granted interim bail for short periods when convicts could be released on parole.

The bench clarified that even if the trial could be concluded swiftly, an undertrial could be granted interim bail if regular bail was difficult to obtain, unless there were exceptionally serious circumstances warranting detention.

The petitioner in this case was accused of raping a girl and assaulting her with a sharp weapon. However, the Court noted discrepancies in the victim's statement, where she accused the petitioner of outraging her modesty rather than rape. Additionally, the Court highlighted that the medical examination did not show injuries in the genital organs, further casting doubt on the severity of the offense.

Emphasizing the importance of family ties and obligations, the Court asserted that every person has the right to be with their family, even during the trial period. It argued that just as convicts are allowed to meet their families, undertrials should also be granted the same privilege, considering their presumption of innocence.

Advocate Hillol Saha Podder represented the petitioner, while Advocates Kallol Acharjee and Kallol Nag appeared for the State.