NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has stressed that cases related to special laws like NDPS and UAPA which have been enacted with stringent provisions on bail, should be taken up and concluded speedily, saying if trials are not concluded in time, the injustice wrecked on the individual is immeasurable.
The top court also asked courts to be sensitive to deleterious aspects of continued incarceration of the accused in cases under the special laws, as in situation of acquittal, the loss to his life is irreparable.
A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Dipankar Datta deliberated on the issues, while granting bail to Mohd Muslim alias Hussain, who was arrested when he was 23 years of age and continued to remain in jail for seven years while criminal trial has only reached half-way mark.
Even though the petitioner was not found in possession of contraband substance, 'Ganja', main accused and co-accused were already granted bail, it noted, even as the prosecution claimed the petitioner was in touch with the co-accused and got involved with them in financial transactions.
Citing Section 37 of the Narcotic Drugs and Substances Act, the bench said, the court would have to look at the material in a broad manner, and reasonably see whether the accused’s guilt may be proved.
The court also said it would be important to reflect that laws which imposed 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," the bench said.
According to the Union Home Ministry’s response to Parliament, the National Crime Records Bureau had recorded that as on December 31, 2021, over 5,54,034 prisoners were lodged in jails against total capacity of 4,25,069 lakhs in the country. Of these 122,852 were convicts; the rest 4,27,165 were undertrials, the bench pointed out.
Referring to the danger of unjust imprisonment, the bench said incarceration has further deleterious effects, where the accused belonged to the weakest economic strata: immediate loss of livelihood, and in several cases, scattering of families as well as loss of family bonds and alienation from society.