Supreme Court: In a major verdict, the bench of UU Lalit and KM Joseph*, JJ has held that it is open for Courts to order house arrest under Section 167 CrPC in appropriate cases. The order comes as a milestone for curbing the problem of overcrowded prisons and high cost for their maintenance.
Indicating the criteria for house arrest, the Court highlighted factors like like age, health condition and the antecedents of the accused, the nature of the crime, the need for other forms of custody, the ability to enforce the terms of the house arrest, etc.
Upon being found guilty instead of sentencing the convict to a term in prison and in lieu of incarceration, as a condition of probation, the convict is compelled to confine himself to his place of residence. Such confinement is called House Arrest.
According to the data published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there were a total number of 1350 prisons as of the year 2019, consisting of 617 Sub Jails, 410 District Jails, 144 Central Jails, 86 Open Jails, 41 Special Jails, 31 Women Jails, 19 Borstal School and 2 Other than the above jails.
The occupancy rate of these prisons has climbed to 118.5 percent in 2019 as on 31st December. The occupancy rate is alarming for male prisoners. In fact, during 2019, a total of 18,86,092 inmates were admitted in the jails. The figure of 4,78,600 prisoners as on 31st December, 2019 is the figure obviously after considering the number of prisoners who would have been inter alia bailed out. The number of under trial prisoners in 2019 was 3,30,487 which in fact constituted 69.05 per cent of the total no. of prisoners. Delhi had the highest occupancy rate of 174.9 percent followed by Uttar Pradesh which came second with 167.9 percent. This means that in Delhi a prison which was meant to be occupied by 100 persons, was used for accommodating 174 persons.
Also, a very large sum (Rs. 6818.1 crore) was the budget on prisons. Both aspects are relevant in the context of the possibilities that house arrest offer.
[Gautam Navlakha v. National Investigation Agency, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 382, decided on 12.05.2021]
*Judgment by: Justice KM Joseph
For Appellant: Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and Nitya Ramakrishnan, Advocate Shadan Farasat
For Respondent: Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju