• Undertrials' jail time to be cut, Law Commission ready to submit suggestion

    May 24, 2017

    Soon, undertrial prisoners will be able to get out of jail on bail much earlier than the current prescribed time period.

    The Law Commission is ready to submit to the Centre a set of recommendations intended to bring in revolutionary changes in bail jurisprudence which, if implemented, would help the release of the poor among the over 2.38 lakh undertrial prisoners languishing in jails for years.

    The commission's report on amendments to bail provisions has been finalised and the radical recommendations, if accepted by the government and implemented, would make true the Supreme Court's 40-year-old ruling in the State of Rajasthan Vs Balchand case, in which Justice Krishna Iyer had said in September 1977: "The basic rule may perhaps be tersely put as bail, not jail."

    The commission, headed by Justice B S Chauhan, examined Section 436A of the criminal procedure code, which provides that an undertrial, accused of offences that attract a maximum imprisonment of seven years, should be released on serving half the sentence.

    For other offences, which attract a maximum jail sentence of over seven years but excluding those punishable with death, an undertrial should be released on serving half the maximum sentence, commission sources said.

    The panel recommends that the period of incarceration be reduced to one-third of the maximum punishment. This means, if an undertrial is accused of an offence attracting a maximum six-year sentence, he would be released on bail after two years in jail.

    The commission also suggests that the HCs must frame rules making it mandatory for trial courts to hear bail applications of accused within a week of their filing. Urgency in deciding bail applications was stressed recently by the SC's social justice bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit, which found that many poor undertrials continue to be lodged in jail despite getting bail because of their inability to furnish bail bonds with sureties.

    Although this piece of news is a relief for all who have been languishing in jails for so many years, it is yet to be seen whether proper implementation of this suggestion will take place or not. It would not be unjust to say that a speck of pessimism is surely in the air, as time and again such important suggestions have either been ignored or implemented poorly.

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