New Delhi: Supreme Court on Wednesday said speedy trial was the "right of the accused" who cannot be kept in custody for an indefinite period if trial is unlikely to conclude within a reasonable time.
"It is well settled that at pre-conviction stage, there is presumption of innocence. The object of keeping a person in custody is to ensure his availability to face trial and to receive the sentence that may be passed. The detention is not supposed to be punitive or preventive," the apex court said.
"Seriousness of the allegation or the availability of material in support thereof are not the only considerations for declining bail. Delay in commencement and conclusion of trial is a factor to be taken into account and the accused cannot be kept in custody for indefinite period if trial is not likely to be concluded within reasonable time," a bench comprising justices T S Thakur and Adarsh Kumar Goel said.
The observations came during hearing of a bail application moved by the Managing Director of Shri Aurobindo Institute of Medical Sciences (SAIMS) Vinod Bhandari who is in judicial custody in connection with the multi-crore 2012 Pre Medical Test scam.
Bhandari, who is charged with forgery, cheating,violation of IT Act and criminal conspiracy, was arrested on January 30 last year by the Madhya Pradesh Special Task Force.
The apex court, which disposed the bail application, said "it is certainly a matter of serious concern that the appellant has been in custody for about one year and there is no prospect of immediate trial."
"When a person is kept in custody to facilitate a fair trial and in the interest of the society, it is duty of the prosecution and the Court to take all possible steps to expedite the trial. Speedy trial is a right of the accused and is also in the interest of justice," it said.