What is ‘Statutory bail’?
Ordinarily, after the arrest of the accused, the statutory period for the State to complete investigation and file a charge sheet is a maximum of 90 days in offences punishable with life imprisonment or death. However, under some laws, like UAPA, this period can be extended up to 180 days.
As per law, once the maximum period, (i.e., 90 / 180 days from arrest), provided for an investigation in a case is over and no charge sheet is filed, the accused becomes entitled to be released on bail, which is called the ‘default’ bail’. This default bail is also known as ‘Statutory bail’.
Is it a Fundamental right or a Statutory right?
According to the Supreme Court, ‘Statutory bail’ is a Fundamental right and is a part of the Right to personal liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The rationale here is that the right of the accused to seek liberty takes precedence over the right of the State to carry on the investigation beyond a stipulated time limit (varies for different laws).
The confusion might arise due to the name itself – ‘Statutory’ Bail. As this right was given by a statute (Section 167 of CrPC), it was a statutory right to begin with. However, SC in Bikramjit Singh vs State of Punjab (2020) and Fakhrey Alam vs State of UP (2021) declared statutory bail under the first proviso to Section 167(2) of CrPC a fundamental right.
- Though it is a Fundamental right, it comes into place only after the stipulated time limit for investigation has expired.
- It does not prohibit or otherwise prevent the arrest or re-arrest of the petitioner on cogent grounds.
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