The Supreme Court has told the concerned courts to consider modifying the conditions imposed if the undertrial prisoners fail to produce bonds within a month, while noting that most of them are behind bars after being granted bail by courts.
A bench comprising justices S.K. Kaul and Abhay S. Oka issued a slew 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,” said the bench.
It further added that if the bail bonds are not furnished within one month from the date of granted bail, the concerned court may suo moto take up the case and consider whether the conditions of bail require modification/ relaxation.
“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,” said the bench.
It further added: “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 a 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 the help of the probation officers or para-legal 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.”
Earlier this week, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) had informed the apex 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 last year, the apex 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.
NALSA, in the report filed in the apex court, said it is in the process of creating a “master data” of all such undertrial prisoners, who could not either furnish surety or bail bonds due to poverty.
According to the report, the accused continue to languish in jail despite being granted bail because they are accused in multiple cases and are not willing to furnish bail bonds until they are given bail in all the cases, as under trial custody will be counted in all the cases.