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Bring a new Act on bails, Supreme Court tells Centre

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    16th Jul, 2022

Context

Recently, a Bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and M.M. Sundresh said jails were overflowing in India while conviction rates remained an abysmal low.

The top court asked the Centre to bring a new Act exclusively to simplify and streamline bails.

Background

  • The matter came up in the Supreme Court as it was delivering its verdict in the Satender Kumar Antil versus Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) case.
  • It noted then that jails in India are flooded with under trials.

Example (British law on bail)

  • The Supreme Court referred to the British law on bail, while asking the Centre to formulate a ‘Bail Act’.
  • A key feature of the Bail Act of the United Kingdom, 1976 is “reducing the size of the inmate population”. The law also has provisions for ensuring legal aid for defendants.
    • The act states that all defendants will be granted bail except for those charged with an imprisonable offence unless substantial grounds exist for believing the defendant on bail would not surrender to custody, would commit an offence while on bail, or would interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice.

Analysis

Types of Offence

  • Bail is a fundamental aspect of any criminal justice system and the practice of bail grew out of the need to safeguard the fundamental right to liberty.
  • The term bail has not been explicitly defined in Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. 
  • Sections 436 to 450 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 contains primary provisions relating to granting of bail and bonds.

In India’s legal system, the term offence has been categorised as bailable offences and non-bailable under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

  • Bailable Offence: As per IPC Section 2(a), a bailable offence means an offence that is shown as bailable in the First Schedule.
    • Which is made bailable by any other law for the time being in force; ‘non-bailable offence’ means any other offence.
  • Non-bailable Offence: The term ‘non-bailable’ doesn’t imply that bail can’t be granted at all.
    • It simply means that the accused can’t claim it as a matter of their right at the time of the arrest or custody.
    • But they can approach the court when while they are under trial.
    • In non-bailable offences, it’s the court’s discretion to grant bail to the accused. And the same must be decided judiciously.

Penal Code:

  • The penal code of a country consists of all the laws that are related to crime and punishment.

Indian Penal Code:

  • It is the official criminal code of India.
  • It is a comprehensive code intended to cover all substantive aspects of criminal law.
  • The objective of the Indian Penal Code is to lay what is right and what is wrong and to lay down the punishment for committing such wrong.

Grim scenario

  • High rate of prison population in India is under-trial.
  • Prisons in India are overcrowded to occupancy of more than 100%.
  • The powerful, rich and influential class obtain bail promptly within no time, while the poor, underprivileged, downtrodden mass languish in jail as under-trials for years due to denial of bail.
  • The rate of conviction in criminal cases in India is abysmally low.

Rate of conviction in criminal cases in India:

As per data maintained by National Crime Record Bureau, the conviction rate of States/UTs relating to cognizable crime under Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Special & Local Laws (SLL) crimes during 2018, 2019 and 2020 is 66.6, 66.4 and 73.4 respectively.

Suggestive measures by Top Court:

  • The judges suggested that bail applications should be disposed of within two weeks.
  • The pleas for anticipatory bail should be decided within six weeks.
  • Investigating agencies and their officers are duty-bound to comply with section Section 41-A of the Criminal Procedure Code (Notice of appearance before police officer).
  • The proper directions and non-compliance would entitle the accused to grant bail.
  • It further directed all state governments, Union Territories, and high courts to file status reports in four months.
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