Read Order: Sarojani v. State of Haryana and Another 

Monika Rahar

New Delhi, April 6, 2022: Finding the explanation offered by the convict/ appellant for her non-presence before the Sessions Court in an NI Act matter, that led to the cancellation of her bail as also the forfeiture of surety bonds, and the issuance of non-bailable warrants against her, to be satisfactory coupled with the consideration of unprecedented situation which resulted from the COVID pandemic, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has allowed the appellant’s appeal by setting aside the impugned order. 

The Bench of Justice Anoop Chitkara however subjected this relief to the fulfilment of certain conditions one of which required the appellant to procure a smartphone and furnish its IMEI number and other details to the SHO/I.O. of the concerned Police station; to keep her location ‘ON’; to share it as and when called upon to do so; and neither to clear her location history, WhatsApp chats, calls nor format the phone without permission of the concerned SHO/I.O.

The background of the case was that the appellant herein filed an appeal against her conviction under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. However, due to her non-appearance before the Sessions Court, the Judge vide his impugned order cancelled the bail bonds and the surety bonds and forfeited the same to the State and also issued non-bailable warrants of arrest against the convict/ appellant. 

Resultantly, the doors of the High Court were knocked by the convict/appellant by way of an appeal under section 449 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 assailing the order of forfeiture of surety bonds, and the issuance of non-bailable warrants against her. 

The Court was of the opinion that the appellant explained the reasons for non-appearance in paragraph 6 of the appeal and the Court was satisfied that the appellant substantiated the same through documentary evidence. 

Although the Court added that the appellant lacked serious intent, the Court was of the opinion that it did not tantamount to complete disregard considering the explanation offered by the appellant. Furthermore, the disruptive effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s varied systems was considered by the Court. 

Thus, given this background and the facts and circumstances peculiar to this case, the Court was satisfied by the explanation offered, thus leading to the allowing of the present appeal to the extent mentioned in this order and subject to the compliance of the conditions (mentioned below) imposed by the Court. 

The first condition imposed on the appellant was a stay on the arrest of the appellant till the next date fixed in the case (25 April 2022), however, the Court added that if the appellant fails to appear within this time of 10 days, then stay on arrest shall stand vacated without any further reference to this court. Also, in case the appellant appears before the Court below, then the impugned order was directed to be quashed, warrants cancelled, and bonds restored. The Trial Court was given the liberty to ask the appellant to furnish fresh bail bonds, and in such an eventuality, the appellant was directed to execute a bond for attendance in the concerned court to its satisfaction. 

Additionally, in order to ensure the presence of the accused before the Lower Court, the High Court directed her to procure a smartphone and furnish its IMEI number and other details to the SHO/I.O. of the concerned Police station. The appellant was directed to always keep the phone location/GPS on the “ON” mode and to share her location as and when called upon to do so by the Police. Also, the appellant was directed neither to clear the location history, WhatsApp chats, calls nor format the phone without permission of the concerned SHO/I.O. This condition was ordered to be continued till the completion of the trial or closure of the case. 

The Appellant was also directed to deposit a sum of rupees ten thousand in the ‘High Court Lawyers Welfare Fund’. Thus, the appeal was allowed to the extent specified above.

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