An accused does not have the right to seek default bail solely because the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) was invoked after filing of the chargesheet under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) offence, ruled the Bombay High Court recently.
“The right to claim default bail under Section 167(2) of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure Code) will not revive as the invocation of the provisions of the MCOCA was not a new investigation but a continuation of the earlier investigation for IPC offence,” said Justice MS Karnik.
Default bail plea rejected
Justice Karnik made the observation while rejecting the default bail plea of Amit Bhogale and Vaibhav Aglave, who were initially charged for murder under the IPC. Subsequently, they were booked under the stringent MCOCA.
As per law, the prosecution has to file a chargesheet in a case within the stipulated 90 days period of the arrest of the accused. Under special laws like MCOCA, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, etc, the 180 days are granted to file the chargesheet. In case the prosecution fails to file the chargesheet within the stipulated time, the accused has a right to be released on bail.
What is the case?
Suraj Mehta alias Nepali was murdered on October 4, 2021. Bhogale and Aglave were arrested on November 26, 2021 and the chargesheet was filed against them on February 23, 2022, which is within the stipulated period prescribed under the CrPC.
On September 23, 2022, the Joint Commissioner of Police granted prior approval to invoke MCOCA and three days later, the special court added the MCOCA charges against them. However, the court rejected their remand under the MCOCA.
Meanwhile, their default bail was rejected by the special court which they challenged before the high court.
Their counsels Raja Thakare and Subhash Jha submitted that while the chargesheet was filed against them under the IPC within the statutory period, no chargesheet was filed with respect to offences under the MCOCA, which were added after the filing of the chargesheet.
State prosecutor Hiten Venegavkar submitted that since the chargesheet was filed under the IPC, the applicants cannot claim fundamental/statutory right of default bail. He also contended that the invocation of the MCOCA post filing of the chargesheet in respect of IPC offence is not a new investigation but a continuation of the earlier investigation.
MCOCA was continuation of earlier investigation for IPC offence
Agreeing with the prosecution, Justice Karnik observed that the investigation under the MCOCA was a continuation of the earlier investigation for the IPC offence. The provisions of MCOCA were invoked because the material under the MCOCA was found against the applicants.
In a detailed 45-page judgment, the high court noted that the FIR initially was registered only under the provisions of the IPC and that a chargesheet was filed within 90 days as required under CrPC. Therefore, no right to default bail would subsist even if MCOCA was invoked after the chargesheet was filed.