Undertrials in jails: Delhi HC unhappy with district judges

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today termed as “pathetic” the exercise of providing information to it by district judges on undertrials who have been unable to secure release from jail despite grant of bail.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said the district judges were directed to collect the data of those entitled to be released from jail and carry out an assessment as to whether their release would pose a risk to society.
“This is unfortunate and pathetic. This is how our senior judicial officers work.

They were asked to give their report, instead they collected letters and documents from all trial court judges on the issue and sent the same to us as it was,” it observed.
“Now we will do this exercise. We will go through this letters of all trial court judges,” it said.
The court directed the Delhi High Court Registry to immediately return the documents to the district judges who have to file their compliance report by March 8 according to the earlier directions of the bench.
It was hearing a PIL filed by advocate Ajay Verma who has contended that hundreds of people were languishing in Tihar Jail here, despite grant of bail.
Acting on it, the high court had issued a slew of directions to be followed by trial courts to ensure that such people get relief.
The high court in its order had directed the trial courts to be more sensitive and vigilant about such cases and to undertake a review of the reasons as to why an undertrial could not be released on bail.
The bench had said the trial court can then carry out a risk assessment of the undertrial and thereafter, modify the bail conditions, if required.
It had directed the judges of each district court who visit the Tihar Jail to ensure a list of undertrials who have been granted bail but could not be released is brought to the notice of the trial judge concerned.
The district judges were also directed to submit a report of the risk assessments carried out by the trial courts apart from verifying the list of 253 undertrials given by the Delhi government and to review any other pending cases of prisoners who could not secure release despite grant of bail.
The list of 253 undertrials were placed before the bench by Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra.
The jail authorities were also directed by the high court to promptly bring such cases to the attention of the trial courts and the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA).
The PIL blamed the lower courts for not exercising the option of personal bond for financially unstable prisoners and said it was misuse of discretionary powers by the judicial system.

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