The Supreme Court recently stated, in Ejike Jonas Orji vs. Narcotics Control Bureau, that prolonged incarceration of pre-trial detainees violates their fundamental right to liberty and dignity. The court made this observation while relaxing the parole conditions of a Nigerian national accused of drug trafficking.
On August 17, a bench of Justices Hrishikesh Roy and Pankaj Mithal noted that the accused Ejike Jonas Orje had been imprisoned for more than nine years and that the parole condition required him to obtain a certificate from the High Commission of Nigeria stating that he would fulfil all bail terms.
The parole condition requiring an embassy certificate imposed by the Delhi High Court in June 2022 prevented his release on bail.
“The liberty of an accused confronting a lengthy trial warrants the Court’s consideration… The prolonged imprisonment of pre-trial detainees violates the constitutional principles of liberty and respect for the individual. In this case, even though bail was granted, the defendant was unable to be released due to a stringent condition, the judge noted.
Therefore, the highest court disregarded the aforementioned bail condition and granted the accused man’s appeal against the Delhi High Court’s ruling.
The tribunal also noted that the case’s trial had not concluded within the past seven years. The special court in Delhi presiding over the case is ‘overloaded’ with approximately 400 similar cases, the bench added.
In the meantime, the defence attorney noted that the defendant has ties to Indian society because he is married to an Indian national and resides in the nation’s capital. The court was also informed that the Investigating Officer had confirmed the Nigerian’s Delhi address.
Adarsh Priyadarshi, an attorney, represented the defendant. KM Nataraj, acting Solicitor General, represented the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).