Convicts Who Have Spent 14 Years In Jail Can Be Given Bail: Supreme Court

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In a significant order, the Supreme Court on Friday said the Allahabad High Court can consider granting bail to the convicts who are not repeat offenders and have served 14 years or more as jail terms as sentence as this would ensure massive decline in pendency.

The top court also said the convicts who have served jail terms between 10 to 14 years can be considered for bail during the pendency of their appeals against conviction in the high court.

The Allahabad High Court and its Lucknow benches had approximately 1,83,000 Criminal Appeals pending as of August 2021 and there are 7,214 convicts in various jails across Uttar Pradesh who have already undergone more than 10 years of their conviction and their criminal appeals are pending adjudication in the high court.

A bench comprising Justices S K Kaul and M M Sundresh was “exasperated” over the non-formulation of common “template” by the Allahabad High Court and the Uttar Pradesh government to deal with the issue of bail to convicts who have served out considerable period of sentence and no likelihood of hearing of their appeals in near future.

The bench then went on to grant bail in 21 such cases filed against the denial of bail to convicts by the high court.

“The fact remains. If a convict has served out 14 or more than 14 years of the sentence, then his case is likely to be considered for remission. The court should either direct (the state authorities) that his application for remission be considered within three months or enlarge him on bail,” the bench observed.

It asked the counsel for the high court and the state government to note its directions on consideration and grant of bail to convicts, the court said: “We have put the word to the learned counsel… A list should be prepared of all cases where the persons have served out the jail sentences of 14 years and are not a repeat offender.

“In these cases bail can be granted in one go. Second category of persons could be one where the persons have served out more than 10 years sentence and In these cases, bail can be granted at one go unless there are any accentuated circumstances. These two parameters can be followed.”

The bench asked the counsel for the high court to convey its views and to this, the lawyer said though he was appearing on the administrative side, he would pass on the directions of this court.
“If a person has served out 14 years of imprisonment then I do not understand as to why the bail is not considered on grounds that the lawyer was present or the lawyer not present. There has to be a repeat offender or something like that for opposing or denying the bail,” Justice Kaul observed during the hearing.

The bench said that it took 15 to 20 minutes in deciding the 20 odd bail applications and the same can be done in the high court by preparing the list of cases where the convicts have served either 14 or more or between 10 to 14 years of jail term.

“We wanted the high court to find a solution… otherwise, we could have done it earlier but we did not do it because we wanted the high court to find the template. But frankly both of us were exasperated today so we decided on these. Template has to be there. The template, which was sought to be implemented earlier, was so complex,” the bench said.

Earlier, the top court had asked both the Uttar Pradesh government and officials of Allahabad High Court to sit together and jointly submit the suggestions for regulating the matters of bail applications during the pendency of the appeals of the convicted persons.

The top court had said that if the suggestions are not given, then it may formulate some guidelines on its own.

It had said that Allahabad High Court registry has 20-25 page suggestions which are like counter-suggestions to those already given by Uttar Pradesh government.

The top court was hearing criminal appeals of the convicts in heinous offences seeking bail on the ground that they have spent seven or more years in jail and be granted bail as their appeals against the convictions are yet to be listed for regular hearing in the high court due to the long pendency.

The high court has given a slew of suggestions to the top court like in cases of serious and grave offences, rights of the victim and his family should be considered before granting bail to an accused.

It suggested to the top court that a ‘victim impact assessment’ report should be obtained after consulting the victim and the report should clearly state all concerns along with vital information on physical, mental and social impact of the crime and impact the bail may have on the victim.

The high court’s registry had given its suggestions to the top court in pursuance of an earlier order asking it to help in laying down “broad parameters” for regulating the matters of bail applications during the pendency of the appeals of the convicted persons.

On August 23 last year, the UP government had suggested to the top court that bail pleas of life convicts, if they have undergone 10 years of jail term, and in other cases where half of the period of the maximum sentence awarded have been spent, can be considered by the High Court.

It had said that to ensure “public peace and the well-being of the society, life convicts who are hardened criminals, repeat offenders, kidnappers, in crimes related to massacre (three or more than three murders), habitual criminals, and fall in prohibited categories as per the UP Jail Standing Policy – no bail should be granted”.

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