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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

Government to pay for bail of poor prisoners, SC accepts standard operating procedure

The funds for the scheme will be provided through the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which will act as the central nodal agency (CNA) for the disbursal of the funds

Our Legal Correspondent New Delhi Published 24.02.24, 04:51 AM
Supreme Court of India.

Supreme Court of India. File Photo

The Supreme Court has accepted the Centre’s standard operating procedure (SoP) for the release of economically backward undertrial and convicted prisoners by reimbursing their bail amounts up to Rs 40,000 and, if necessary, a further enhanced amount on a case-by-case basis.

This is because thousands of prisoners in the country continue to languish in jails because of their financial condition and inability to pay the bail amount fixed by the courts at the time of their release, either during the trial or the appeal.

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Under the new scheme, the benefit of state-sponsored bail amount will not be available in case of serious offences such as those under the Prevention of Corruption Act, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), money-laundering and drug-related offences.

The funds for the scheme will be provided through the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which will act as the central nodal agency (CNA) for the disbursal of the funds.

The bench of Justice M.M. Sundresh and Justice S.V.N. Bhatti approved the SoP for implementation by states and Union Territories following its submission by additional solicitor-general Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre.

“The SoP, if put in place by the central government, will indeed alleviate the situation of undertrial prisoners by way of establishment of a dedicated empowered committee and funds etc,” the bench said in a written order.

States/ UTs will draw the requisite amount from the CNA on a case-by-case basis and submit it to the court so the prisoner can avail bail.

An “empowered committee” may be constituted in each district of the state or UT with the district collector or district magistrate, secretary of the district legal services authority (DLSA), superintendent of police, superintendent or deputy superintendent of the prison concerned, and the judge in charge of the prison as a nominee of the district judge.

The empowered committee will assess the requirement of financial support in each case for securing bail or paying any fine. Based on the decision taken, the district collector/ magistrate will draw money from the CNA account and take the necessary action.

SOP for undertrials

⦿ If the undertrial is not released from jail within seven days of the order to grant bail, the jail authorities will inform the secretary, DLSA.

⦿ The secretary will inquire whether the undertrial is not in a position to furnish the financial surety for securing bail within 10 days.

⦿ The secretary will place all such cases before the district-level empowered committee every two to three weeks.

⦿ After examination of such cases, if the empowered committee recommends that the prisoner be extended the benefit, the requisite amount up to Rs 40,000 per case for one prisoner can be drawn and made available to the court as a fixed deposit or by any other method that the district committee feels appropriate.

⦿ If the prisoner is later acquitted or convicted, appropriate orders may be passed by the trial court so that the money comes back to the government’s account.

⦿ If the bail amount is higher than Rs 40,000, the secretary, DLSA, may exercise discretion to pay such amount and make a recommendation to the empowered committee. The secretary may also engage with legal aid advocates to have the surety amount reduced. For any amount over and above Rs 40,000, the proposal may be approved by the state-level oversight committee.

SOP for convicts

⦿ If a convict is unable to secure his or her release from jail on account of failing to pay the fine, the prison superintendent will inform the secretary, DLSA, within seven days.

⦿ The secretary will enquire into the financial condition of the prisoner with the help of the district social worker, NGOs, district probation officer and the revenue officer, who will be mandated to cooperate with the secretary, DLSA, within seven days.

⦿ The empowered committee will sanction the release of the fine amount up to Rs 25,000, to be deposited with the court to secure the release of the prisoner. For any amount above Rs 25,000, the proposal may be approved by the state-level oversight committee.

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