The Delhi High Court has laid down guidelines on grant of bail to undertrials, on a Petition alleging that several under-trial prisoners are languishing in jail despite bail orders having been passed in their favour.
The Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar issued the order on a Petition filed by Advocate Ajay Verma, who has attributed the non-release of undertrials to reasons such as poverty, and financial inability of the relatives to furnish surety bonds or local sureties.
During a hearing last month, the Court took note of a detailed order passed by it in December last year, wherein it had directed District and Sessions Judges to conduct a "risk assessment" of cases where undertrials have been unable to secure release from jail despite grant of bail.
In its order dated 15 December, the Court had also examined various precedents wherein Courts have deprecated such practices and had opined that such pronouncements are not being complied with. It had then highlighted the need for a risk assessment of such cases.
The Court now opined that its duty does not end with such orders of assessment and that the matter needs to be "continuously reviewed", observing, "We are of the view that the solemn duty of every court does not come to an end with mere passing of an order, more so, when it is relatable to the rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India affecting the life and liberty of any person. This is more so when the court is concerned with any person lodged in prison. Therefore, the responsibility and duty of every court passing an order of bail and to ensure that the same is complied with has to be kept on the highest pedestal and undertaken in right earnestness."
It then laid down the following guidelines:
1.The trial courts should not only be sensitive but extremely vigilant in cases where they are recording orders of bail to ascertain the compliance thereof.
2.When bail is granted, an endorsement shall be made on the custody warrant of the prisoner, indicating that bail has been granted, along with the date of the order of bail.
3.In case of inability of a prisoner to seek release despite an order of bail, it is the judicial duty of all trial courts to undertake a review for the reasons thereof.
4.Every bail order shall be marked on the file. It shall be the responsibility of every judge issuing an order of bail to monitor its execution and enforcement.
5.In case a judge stands transferred before the execution, it shall be the responsibility of the successor judge to ensure execution.
6.It shall be the responsibility of prison authorities to promptly bring any instance of a prisoner being unable to secure release from prison despite an order of bail having been passed in his favour to the notice of the trial courts as well as the concerned Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority.
7.All trial courts passing an order of bail shall maintain a record of the following:
8.A monthly statement on these aspects shall be sent to the concerned District Judges, who would undertake an exercise of verification of the information furnished by the court concerned.
9.This information shall also be sent to the District Judge as well as Director General (Prisons) who would undertake an exercise of verification on a quarterly basis.
10.A report regarding the orders of bail and the release of prisoners shall be sent on quarterly basis by the District Judge as well as Director General (Prisons) to the Registrar General of this Court.
11.The panel advocates deputed by the Legal Services Authority in the respective criminal courts would be responsible to keep themselves updated, inter alia, on the basis of above-mentioned record and report and move appropriate application in concerned Case qua concerned accused respecting whose release further orders are required to be passed to secure release from custody pursuant to the bail order.
12.The training and sensitization of judges on these aspects shall be taken expeditiously by the District Judges in conjunction with the Delhi Judicial Academy.
Besides, it also directed the Director (Academics) of the Delhi Judicial Academy to design a training module on bail and release of undertrials by lower Court Judges and a schedule for the same. District Judges have been made responsible to ensure that such trainings are in fact being carried out.
A compliance report has been directed to be filed by all District Judges; the Director (Academics), Delhi Judicial Academy; Member Secretary, DSLSA and the Director General, Prisons, Delhi. The matter has now been listed on 1 May.