Major relief to GNLA Chief Champion Sangma as Supreme Court orders his immediate release

Supreme Court: Giving major relief to Champion Sangma, the Chairman and Commandar-in-Chief of Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), the bench of Dr. AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, JJ ordered immediate release of Sangma and said that the manner in which the State of Meghalaya proceeded in the matter

“is clearly impermissible, violative of the rule of law and offends the petitioner’s right under Article 21 of the Constitution as he has been detained in custody by adopting totally faulty and illegal process.”

Background of the case:

  • Several criminal cases have been registered against Sangma and in most of these cases, he is either acquitted or discharged.
  • In all the other pending cases, he has been granted bail expect in one case instituted under Section 364A read with Section 34 of the Penal Code, 1860 in the year 2011. Sangma was declared an absconder in 2012. As on January 2018, the position was that the petitioner had been granted bail in the pending cases against him and, therefore, in normal course, he should have been released from custody.
  • On 24.01.2018, orders were passed by the Additional District Magistrate (Judicial) allowing the prayer of the prosecution to arrest Sangma.

Conclusion:

The Court declared the order dated 24.01.2018 as non-est, nullity and without any jurisdiction and hence, the custody of Sangma, who has otherwise been released on bail in all other cases, is clearly illegal.

The important aspects that were taken note of by the Court to reach this conclusion were:

  • Though the prosecution has moved an application before the Court of Additional District Magistrate (Judicial), North Garo Hills, opposing the bail application made by the petitioner in the Court, in fact, no such bail application was ever filed by the petitioner. There was no question of filing any bail application in the first place as the petitioner was never arrested in this case.
  • When the aforesaid application of the prosecution purportedly opposing the bail application of the petitioner was filed, the learned Additional District Magistrate (Judicial) did not have any records of the case except the application which was put up before him and the averments made therein.
  • No notice of this application was ever served upon the petitioner. The application was considered exparte and treating the averments made in the said application as gospel truth, the prayer made in the application was allowed.

The Court also noticed that the State failed to respond to it’s query as to under what provision, in the aforesaid circumstances, the application should be filed when there was no formal arrest of the petitioner, though nobody prevented the respondent to arrest the petitioner in the aforesaid case. It said:

“We have not understood the manner in which the prosecution has acted in this case.”

As a result, the Court ordered the release of Sangma. It, however, made clear that it has not restrained the State from taking any appropriate legal steps in the aforesaid FIR/chargesheet, which are permissible in law. [Champion R. Sangma v. State of Meghalaya, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 262, order dated 20.03.2018]

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