What is a default bail? Can a person be granted bail if charge-sheet is not filed in prescribed period?

In common legal parlance, the right to bail on failure of police / investigating agency to submit a complete charge-sheet / challan / police report within a prescribed period is commonly referred to as ‘default bail’ or ‘compulsive bail’ or ‘statutory bail’ as it is granted on account of the default of the investigating agency in not completing the investigation within the prescribed time, irrespective of the merits of the case.

It is advisable to file an application (before the concerned Magistrate) for default bail immediately after completion of the prescribed period (in case the police fail to file charge-sheet within that period) as the right is deemed to have been availed or enforced as soon as the application is filed. In such a case, even if the charge-sheet is filed afterward, it will not affect the right of the accused to get default bail. However, if the accused fails to file the application for default bail and the police file the charge-sheet in the meantime, the applicant will not get the benefit of default bail. [Refer M. Ravindran vs. The Intelligence Officer, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Supreme Court Cr. Appeal No. 699 of 2020]

Once the default bail is granted, the accused/applicant has to furnish bail bonds as mentioned in the default bail order and the applicant/accused can be released from the custody only after the bail bonds / sureties are furnished.

The default bail is not liable to be cancelled even after completion of investigation and submission of charge-sheet. The default bail can be cancelled only on the grounds and considerations on which a regular bail can be cancelled. [Refer Aslam Babulal Desai vs. State of Maharashtra, (1992) 4 SCC 363, AIR 1993 SC 1]

The provisions of default bail are also applicable to special acts (like Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), etc.) unless there is an express provision to the contrary.

The prescribed period is:

  • ninety (90) days for offences punishable with death, life imprisonment or imprisonment of ten (10) years or more. Maximum imprisonment which can be imposed is considered.
  • Sixty (60) days in other cases.
  • In the case of special Acts, the prescribed period differs, for e.g. in certain offences under NDPS Act, the prescribed period is one hundred and eighty (180) days which can be further extended by the Court and in the case of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, the prescribed period is ninety (90) days which can be further extended to one hundred and eighty (180) days.

While computing the prescribed period, the day on which the accused was remanded to the custody has to be excluded and the day on which challan/ charge-sheet is filed in the court has to be included. [Refer Ravi Prakash Singh @ Arvind Singh vs. State of Bihar, (2015) 8 SCC 340, AIR 2015 SC 1294]

 Relevant Legal Provisions:
  • Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

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