A One-Year Delay in Conclusion of a Trial can be a Fresh Ground for the Second Bail Application. SC


A significant development in the jurisprudence of bail: The Supreme Courtย  clarified in case, Crl.P.588-L/2023, that no matter if an earlier bail application on the ground of delay in the conclusion of a trial hasย  been dismissed. If a trial is delayed for one year for no fault of the accused and the offence is not punishable with death sentence, it can still be a fresh ground available to the accused to file a second bail application.

The brief factual background of the case is that the accused person in the case in hand filed a bail application before the court on the ground of a one-year delay in the conclusion of his trial which was dismissed, because the delay was caused by the accused himself. Later on, he filed another application after one year had passed and sought his release from the prison. The Lahore High Court granted bail and released him. The said order of the Lahore High Court was impugned by the petitionerย  in the Supreme Court, which is the subject matter of the judgment in hand.

The petitioner submitted before the Court that once a bail application filed on the ground of delay in trialย  is dismissed due to theย  fault of the accused, the accused cannot file another bail application after one year alleging that he is not at fault for the second time and a fresh ground has arisen in his favor.

The Court found this contention not tenable in the eye of law and has purposivelyย  interpreted the third proviso of section 497 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides for the release of an accused on the ground of delay if not caused by the accused. In the end, the Supreme Court upheld the decision the High Court but remarked that the HC had been remiss in elaborating that a one-year delay in a trial for no fault of an accused can be fresh ground for bail application, even though his previous bail application had been dismissed.

The Supreme Court further held that if the argument of the petitioner that delay for the second time cannot be a fresh ground for bail, is accepted, the accused will have no incentive to cooperate with the prosecution in the conclusion of the trial and he shall remain as an under trial prisonerย  forย  an unlimited time until the prosecution concludes the trial. This interpretation is not in consonance with the Constitutional scheme of the fundamental rights either.

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