The Supreme Court in the reference of Gautam Navlakha v. National Investigation Agency held that under section 167 of Cr.PC, house arrest is equivalent to the judicial custody. The court gave the order that in some suitable cases the court can order house arrest which means that those who were sent in judicial or police custody need not necessary to go in jail. The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that due to over rush in prison and the high maintenance cost of these prisons and that house arrest is an option.
The court stated the reasons why house arrest is needed. Firstly there is excessive crowd in Indian jail and secondly, the cost required to maintain these prisons is huge and a very large sum of budget is allocated for prisons (Rs. 68181.1 crore).
The court mentions suitable or appropriate conditions where court has the ability to issue the house arrest. The conditions like – “age, health, the character of crime, the antecedents of the accused, the need for other forms of custody” are some of the cases where the court has the power to enforce the house arrest.
The house arrest is no where defined or recognized by law. In house arrest the accused are confined in their house, communication and movements are restricted and they are kept in the proper surveillance of the authority. This custody is issued in certain circumstances.
Issue before the court:
The issue raised before the court is whether the period of 34 days spent by the appellant in this case in house arrest should be counted in the period of 90 days under section 167 Cr.PC or not?
The bench comprising of Justice UU Lalit and KM Joseph defined the section 167 of Cr.PC and rejected the default bail plea of the activist Gautam Navlakha (accused) in the Bhima- Koregaon case.
Accused Navlakha challenged the Bombay High Court order denying him default bail, on the ground that ‘charge sheet was not filed by the National Investigation Agency in the prescribed time under law in court’.
Navlakha approached Supreme Court after the Bombay High Court rejected his plea and submitted another plea that the 34 days he spent in house arrest should be counted in the 90 days stipulated by the law. During this period the NIA was bound to file a charge sheet against him but the agency failed to do so and this is why he is eligible for a ‘default bail’.
The Supreme Court rejected his plea and held that nothing is mentioned in section 167 of Cr.PC regarding the counting of days for default bail. The court deals with the section 167 of the Cr.PC which states “court’s powers to send an accused to police or judicial custody”. When the accused is sent to the jail by the court, it is known as Judicial Custody whereas when the accused is sent to lock –up after a proper investigation, it is known as Police Custody. The court in its judgment said that house arrest can be taken into the consideration under special circumstances.