NDPS Act: Undue delay in trial can be a ground for granting bail to an accused
The Supreme Court has held that undue delay in trial can be a ground for granting bail to an accused, despite the rigorous provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985. The court granted bail to an undertrial prisoner arrested seven years ago for allegedly being part of a ganja-supplying gang. The ruling stated that only a prima facie consideration is required under the NDPS Act, and that a plain and literal interpretation of the conditions under Section 37 would effectively exclude the grant of bail altogether, resulting in punitive detention and unsanctioned preventive detention.
The court noted that Section 37 NDPS Act and other similar provisions with stringent conditions for bail have been upheld, but these conditions were enacted on the condition that trial would be expedited. The court concluded that laws which impose stringent conditions for the grant of bail may be necessary in the public interest, but if trials are not concluded in time, the injustice is immeasurable, and incarceration can have deleterious effects on the accused and their families.
Even in the case of special legislations like the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 or the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (“the NDPS Act”) which too have somewhat rigorous conditions for grant of bail, this Court in Paramjit Singh v. State (NCT of Delhi), (1999) 9 SCC 252] , Babba v. State of Maharashtra, (2005) 11 SCC 569 and Umarmia v. State of Gujarat, (2017) 2 SCC 731 enlarged the accused on bail when they had been in jail for an extended period of time with little possibility of early completion of trial. The constitutionality of harsh conditions for bail in such special enactments, has thus been primarily justified on the touchstone of speedy trials to ensure the protection of innocent civilians.Union of India v. K. A. Najeeb 4  2 SCR 443: (2021) 3 SCC 713
Before parting, it would be important to reflect that laws which impose stringent conditions for grant of bail, may be necessary in public interest; yet, if trials are not concluded in time, the injustice wrecked on the individual is immeasurable. Jails are overcrowded and their living conditions, more often than not, appalling.