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Bailed by court, but bound for life

Good conduct granted them freedom years ago. Bad luck still confines them behind bars.

At least 30 inmates of Birsa Munda Central Jail in Hotwar, Ranchi, are languishing in their dingy cells instead of living reformed lives outside despite court orders because they have no bailer and the state isn’t scouting for other legal routes to release them.

Take for example the case of 45-year-old Singa Barjo of West Singhbhum. Barjo was convicted for murder (case No. ST182/01) and awarded life sentence in 2001. On December 20, 2004, the court granted him bail for good behaviour. But no family member or friend offered the security sum in exchange for his release. Hence, Barjo never left prison.

Similarly, Urgan Minz (43) of Ranchi was jailed for murder, but granted bail by Jharkhand High Court more than a year and a half ago. Yet, she continues her repentance within guarded walls.

Sources said of the 30 star-crossed inmates, 26 were convicts and four undertrials.

“To my knowledge, Barjo is the oldest of such unfortunate prisoners lodged in our jail. He has been here for nearly nine years despite bail order. Others secured bail between three months and eight years ago. This is not the curious case of Birsa Munda prison alone. If you dig for figures, you will find hundreds like them elsewhere too — one of the key reasons for most Jharkhand jails being overcrowded,” a well-placed source said.

The problem is neither individual prisons nor the state home department has reliable statistics. No one could say for sure how many inmates are confined across the state for want of bailers.

“They may be wrong-doers, but they have human rights. We feel bad for these people, but are helpless,” said a Birsa jail staff, requesting anonymity.

He pointed out that no freedom despite bail orders often made inmates suicidal or violent. “After days, months or years in confinement, you are granted freedom and you still can’t cherish it… what can be more disheartening. Disappointment leads to depression, which often encourages extreme steps like suicide,” he said.

According to high court advocate Vipul Ranjan, though the government’s hands are tied in the matter, it can always make fresh appeal.

“The best way out is to approach court again, which can reconsider its decision, modify the same or ask authorities to release inmates on personal bond. Jails must review such cases, prepare database and approach the court. Jhalsa is very active these days and even provides lawyers for free,” Ranjan said.

Birsa Munda jail superintendent D.K. Pradhan agreed that preparing a database was a good idea.

“All jails should review bail orders from time to time. Cases where inmates have not been freed for want of bailers can be compiled and sent to the headquarters for appeal before Jhalsa. We did a review and these cases came to light. We have urged Jhalsa to consider releasing these prisoners on personal bond,” he said.

Do you know of any prisoner deprived of a bailer?


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