NEW DELHI: In a significant direction, the Supreme Court has told the courts concerned to consider modifying the bail conditions imposed if the undertrial prisoners failed to produce bonds within a month, while expressing concern over the fact that most of the accused remained behind the bars even after being granted bail.
A bench of Justices S K Kaul and Abhay S Oka issued a series of directions to address the issue of the undertrial prisoners languishing in jails despite being granted bail.
“One of the reasons which delays the release of the accused/ convict is the insistence upon local surety. It is suggested that in such cases, the courts may not impose the condition of local surety,” the bench said.
If the bail bonds are not furnished within one month from the date of grant bail, the concerned court may suo moto take up the case and consider whether the conditions of bail require modification/ relaxation, the bench added.
“In cases where the undertrial or convict requests that he can furnish bail bonds or sureties once released, then in an appropriate case, the court may consider granting temporary bail for a specified period to the accused so that he can furnish bail bonds or sureties,” the bench said.
The top court issued these directions in a 2021 suo motu case In Re Policy Strategy for Grant of Bail.
The court said, “If the accused is not released within a period of seven days from the date of grant of bail, it would be the duty of the Superintendent of Jail to inform the Secretary, DLSA who may depute para legal volunteer or jail visiting advocate to interact with the prisoner and assist the prisoner in all ways possible for his release”.
The bench also directed that a court granting bail to an undertrial prisoner or a convict would be required to e-mail a soft copy of the order to the prisoner through the jail superintendent on the same day or the next day.
The bench also directed the National Informatics Centre to “create necessary fields in the e-prison software so that the date of grant of bail and the date of release are entered by the prison department and in case the prisoner is not released within seven days, then an automatic e-mail can be sent to the DLSA secretary”.
The bench said, “The secretary, DLSA, with a view to find out the economic condition of the accused, may take help of the probation officers or paralegal volunteers to prepare a report on the socio-economic conditions of the inmate, which may be placed before the concerned court with a request to relax the condition of bail or surety,"
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) had earlier informed the court that about 5,000 undertrial prisoners were in jails despite being granted bail and 1,417 of them were released. Advocate Gaurav Agrawal is the amicus curiae in the matter.
In November, 2022, the top court flagged the issue of undertrials, who continue to languish in jail despite being granted bail, as they were unable to fulfil the conditions of bail. The top court had asked the state governments to issue directions to jail authorities to provide details of such UTPs to NALSA.
The order had come after President Droupadi Murmu, in her maiden Constitution Day address at the Supreme Court, had highlighted the plight of poor tribals of her home state Odisha and Jharkhand, saying they remain incarcerated despite getting bail for lack of money to furnish the bail amount or arrange sureties.