SC strikes down onerous bail conditions imposed on Nigerian man including sharing real-time location on Google Maps with authorities, upholds Right to Privacy of accused
Justices Abhay S Oka & Ujjal Bhuyan [08-07-2024]


Read Order: Frank Vitus v. Narcotics Control Bureau & Ors [SC- CRL APL NO. 2814-2815 OF 2024]



LE Correspondent


New Delhi, July 9, 2024: The Supreme Court has struck down two bail conditions imposed on a foreign national charged under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, including real-time location on Google Maps with the authorities, holding them to be violative of the right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.



“Imposing any bail condition which enables the Police/Investigation Agency to track every movement of the accused released on bail by using any technology or otherwise would undoubtedly violate the right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21,” the Apex Court observed.



A bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan was dealing with an appeal filed by Frank Vitus, who was granted bail by the High Court in an NDPS case subject to various conditions, including obtaining a certificate from the Nigerian Embassy assuring that he will not leave India and appear before the court, and dropping a PIN on Google Maps to share his real-time location with authorities.



The Supreme Court held that imposing conditions enabling tracking of an accused's every movement through technology would undoubtedly violate their privacy rights. It noted that the condition of dropping a PIN on Google Maps was incorporated without considering its technical implications and relevance, and ordered it to be deleted.



On the condition of obtaining an assurance certificate from the Nigerian Embassy, the Top Court clarified that this need not be imposed in every NDPS case involving foreign nationals. If the Embassy declines to issue such a certificate within a reasonable time, courts can dispense with the condition. An accused cannot be denied bail for non-compliance with an impossible condition beyond their control.



“Grant of such a certificate by the Embassy/High Commission is beyond the control of the accused to whom bail is granted. Therefore, when the Embassy/High Commission does not grant such a certificate within a reasonable time, as explained above, the accused, who is otherwise held entitled to bail, cannot be denied bail on the ground that such a condition, which is impossible for the accused to comply with, has not been complied with. Hence, the Court will have to delete the condition,” the Bench observed.



The Apex Court held that bail conditions cannot be arbitrary, fanciful or extend beyond the ends of the provision. They must be within the scope of the CrPC and consistent with the object of imposing conditions, which is to ensure the accused does not interfere with the investigation, tamper evidence, commit offences or obstruct the trial. An accused's constitutional rights under Article 21 can only be curtailed to the minimum extent required for imposing warranted bail conditions.



The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and directed deletion of the two onerous bail conditions in this case, upholding the right to privacy and liberty of the accused.

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