As thousands of undertrial prisoners continue to languish in jail despite having been granted bail, the Supreme Court has directed trial courts to suo motu consider relaxing bail conditions in cases where accused persons are unable to furnish bail bonds for over a month.
The order came from a Bench led by Justice SK Kaul after a National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) report highlighted “that there are 5,000 undertrial prisoners who were in jail, despite grant of bail, out of which, 2,357 persons were provided legal assistance and now 1,417 persons have since been released.”
NALSA said it was in the process of creating a “master data” of all such undertrial prisoners who were unable to furnish sureties or bail bonds due to poverty or other reasons.
“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 in a recent order.
The court granting bail to an undertrial prisoner/convict would be required to send a soft copy of the bail order by e-mail the same day or the next day to the prisoner through the Jail Superintendent who would enter the date of grant of bail in the e-prisons software or any other software being used by the Prison Department, it said.
The Bench – which had earlier said that persons in jail who had completed at least 10 years of sentence and whose appeals were not likely to be heard anytime soon should be released on bail provided there were no other extenuating circumstances — posted the matter for further hearing on March 28.
“If the accused is not released within a period of 7 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 top court ordered.
It directed the NIC to create necessary fields in the e-prison software so that the date of grant of bail and date of release are entered by the Prison Department and in case the prisoner is not released in seven days, an automatic email could be sent to the Secretary, District Legal Services Authority (DLSA).