To mark 75th year of Independence unclog the jails says Supreme Court
New Delhi, Aug 06: The perfect way to celebrate 75 years of India's independence would be to unclog the prisons and trial courts, the Supreme Court has said. The court implored the Union Government to quickly come up with measures to facilitate the release of under-trials and those convicted of minor offences.
A Bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M M Sundresh added that the inmates should ideally be left out on bail if the judiciary cannot decide their cases within 10 years.
"The government is celebrating 75 years of independence as 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav' (elixir of freedom). This is the perfect time to utilise this celebration for coming up with measures to release under-trials and other convicts who have served a substantial part of their sentence. The idea is to unclog the jails and unclog the trial courts," the Bench said.
"You may come up with categories of prisoners as well as offences where the inmates should be released. We are not saying someone who has committed a crime should not suffer incarceration. But protracted trials and keeping someone behind bars for the longest possible time without a conviction cannot be the solution. At the same time, first-time convicts of minor offences could be released on a bond of good behaviour. Similarly, after having gone through one-third or more of a possible jail term, an under-trial should also be released on bail," the Bench told the Additional Solicitor General, K M Natraj.
Natraj told the court that Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his inaugural session of the first all India district legal services authorities last week also spoke about the need to release undertrial prisoners. He also said that the suggestion by the court will have to be examined under the existing legal framework.
"This is a worrisome issue. You must think out of the box. Who is going to give them their life back if they are acquitted of all charges after 10 years. If we cannot decide a case within 10 years, they should ideally be granted bail," the Bench said.
"The reformative theory of punishment is completely overlooked. One purpose of punishment is to also see the accused reintegrate into society. After serving years behind bars as under-trials or in cases of first-time offenders in minor offences, they should be able to come out... come up with a policy after consultation with states and UTs," Natraj was told.
"Putting people behind bars or opposing bail upon realising that the evidence is not good enough to get a conviction can never be the solution. The investigation mechanism has to be improved but a court cannot fill the lacuna of a bad investigation by keeping accused inside," the court also said.