The Supreme Court yesterday asked the concerned Courts to consider modifying the bail conditions imposed on the undertrial prisoners if the bonds were not furnished within a month.

The Court noted that a number of undertrial prisoners are in jail even after being granted bail.

The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Abhay S. Oka directed, “In cases where the undertrial or convict requests that he can furnish bail bond 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 bond or sureties. … If the bail bonds are not furnished within one month from the date of grant bail, the concerned Court may suo moto take up the case and consider whether the conditions of bail require modification/ relaxation.”

The Bench noted that one of the reasons which delay the release of the accused/ convict is the insistence upon local surety and therefore, it is suggested that in such cases, the Courts may not impose the condition of local surety.

In this case, Advocate Gaurav Agrawal i.e., the Amicus Curiae drew the attention of the Apex Court to the issue of undertrial prisoners who continue to be in custody despite having been granted the benefit of bail on account of inability to fulfill the conditions. In this regard, a report by the National Legal Services Authority i.e., NALSA was placed before the top Court being filed on January 31, 2023.

It was stated in para 5 of the report that there were 5,000 undertrial prisoners who were in jail, despite the grant of bail, out of which, 2,357 persons were provided legal assistance and now 1,417 persons have since been released. The NALSA had said it was in the process of creating a "master data" of all such undertrial prisoners (UTPs) who are unable to furnish sureties or bail bonds due to poverty, including the reasons for their non-release from jail.

The Apex Court had, in its November 29, 2021 order, flagged the issue of the UTPs who continued to be in custody despite being granted bail on account of their inability to fulfill the conditions.

The Court had asked the States to issue directions to the jail authorities to provide the details of such UTPs to the NALSA, which will process it for making necessary suggestions on how to deal with the issue and provide legal assistance, wherever necessary.

The Supreme Court in view of the issue of this case directed, “The Court which grants bail to an undertrial prisoner/convict would be required to send a soft copy of the bail order by e-mail to the prisoner through the Jail Superintendent on the same day or the next day. The Jail Superintendent would be required to enter the date of grant of bail in the e-prisons software [or any other software which is being used by the Prison. … 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 Court further directed that the NIC would make attempts 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 within 7 days, then an automatic email can be sent to the Secretary, DLSA.

“The Secretary, DLSA with a view to find out the economic condition of the accused, may take help of the Probation Officers or the 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 (s) of bail/surety”, the Court observed.

The Court also called upon the Government of India to discuss this issue with NALSA so that necessary directions if any, can be passed and said that the ASG would obtain instructions in that regard by the next date.

The Court further asserted that instead of looking to the suggestions and directions sought, a more appropriate course of action would be the Amicus to look into such issues on behalf of the NALSA and accordingly make suggestions to the Court taking them as inputs.

The Court, therefore, listed the matter on March 28, 2023.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the application.

Cause Title- In Re Policy Strategy for Grant of Bail

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