Centre for periodic review of undertrial prisoners

The Centre has asked all state governments to hold a meeting of a review committee comprising district magistrate, district judge and superintendent of police to consider cases of those undertrial prisoners who have already served one-fourth of their jail term.

The Ministry of Home Affairs advisory is intented to facilitate their bail for the purpose of reducing the burden on overcrowded prisons.

The jail superintendents have also been instructed to carry out a survey every three months of such undertrial prisoners and refer their cases to district legal services authority for putting up bail applications and reduction of bail amount.

This stand was made clear in an affidavit filed in response to a PIL seeking direction to take urgent steps to reduce overcrowding in prisons.

The advisory was forwarded to all states for the use of Section 436 A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and take up the cases of those prisoners who had already spent one-fourth of their likely sentence.

The affidavit stated: “It is also worth mentioning that, while it is true that the undertrials (about 2,41,200 in the year 2011) constitute about 65 per cent of the total persons in jail, it is also to be kept under consideration that in the same year about 74 lakh persons (74,58,258 persons, to be precise) were arrested as per the National Crime Record Bureau statistics. This implies that most of the persons are released on bail after short durations in custody.”

It also pointed out that as per Section 436A of the CrPC, an accused person could be granted bail on expiry of a fixed period of custody depending on the maximum sentence provided under the offence.

However, the competent court has been given power to deny bail in spite of the expiry of said period depending upon the factual matrix of the case.

Balancing act

“The law made by Parliament is quite clear and has been consciously enacted striking a balance between the personal liberty of an undertrial and the need of the society to keep crime under control. It is also respectfully submitted that there is vagueness or ambiguity in the said provision or in other provisions of the CrPC relating to bail,” it said.

The ministry further said that a blanket grant of bail could not allowed based on a formula.

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