Delhi HC seeks standard operating procedure for timely release of prisoners on bail

New Delhi, March 12 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed authorities in the national capital to develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) to ensure the release of jail inmates granted bail within 48 hours.

In February, the court initiated a suo motu petition to address the concerns surrounding delays in the acceptance of bail bonds by Jail Superintendents, thereby hindering the timely release of accused or convicts.

On Tuesday, a bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Amit Mahajan, stressed the need for expeditious release, particularly in cases involving emergencies like attending funerals, or marriages.

It asked the Delhi government counsel to draft an SOP and submit a fresh affidavit within 10 days.

As counsel said potential delays in inmate release are due to police verification of surety details, citing an existing police circular with set timeframes for verification, the court, noting the challenges faced by indigent inmates, stressed the importance of promptly releasing individuals granted bail, especially those represented by legal aid lawyers who may struggle to follow up effectively.

The court stressed the urgency of the matter, suggesting a compressed timeframe of 5-6 hours for special emergencies like funerals.

Recognising the overcrowded conditions in jails, the court proposed leveraging technology to streamline processes and expedite releases.

Furthermore, the court urged the Delhi government lawyer to consult with Jail Superintendents and the Director General of Prisons to identify necessary steps and resources for addressing delays in inmate release.

Justice Mahajan had, last month, raised the issue noticing the procedural delays that often negate the immediate benefits intended by bail orders.

The court frequently directs that bail bonds be furnished directly to Jail Superintendents to expedite the release process, bypassing additional steps that could delay an accused or convict’s release. However, the practice has been marred by significant delays, with reports suggesting it takes about one to two weeks for a bail bond to be accepted by the Jail Superintendent.

The matter came to light during a case where despite the court’s suspension of a convict’s sentence for four weeks, the individual remained incarcerated due to the delay in bail bond acceptance.

This incident prompted the court to address the issue, noting the principle that even a single day’s deprivation of liberty is a day too many, as reiterated by the Supreme Court. The court had last time referred to the ‘FASTER’ procedure, established by the Supreme Court to ensure the Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records, including bail orders, to jail authorities, aiming to minimise such delays.

While Additional Standing Counsel Nandita Rao had suggested that the case might be an exception rather than the norm, the court had asked for an appropriate affidavit to be filed.

The matter will be next heard on April 1.



Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.