Gujarat High Court: While hearing a regular bail application, the Court noted that a suspension of sentence order was already passed by the Court on 29-09-2020, whereby, the applicant was released on regular bail for offences under Section 389 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (‘CrPC’), however, the order was not implemented, the Division Bench of A.S. Supehia and M.R. Mengdey, JJ. allowed the application and directed the State to grant a compensation of Rs.1,00,000/- to the convict for illegal incarceration in the jail for a period of three years.
On perusing the jail records, the Court noted that the convict was released on regular bail vide order dated 29-09-2020 on furnishing personal bond of Rs.20,000/- and two surety. An E-mail was sent to the Sessions Court and Ahmedabad Central Jail on 03-12-2020, however, due to COVID-19 pandemic, the said E-mail was not noticed by the jail authority and the order passed by the Coordinate Bench of the Court was not implemented.
The Court stated that the present case was an eye opener. The Court said that due to the remissness on the part of the jail authorities the convict remained incarcerated in the jail. The Court also noted that during the convict’s incarceration period he was released on temporary bail and furlough on few occasions also. The Court also said that the convict could have enjoyed his freedom but was forced to remain in jail only because no attention was paid by the jail authorities to contact the Registry or the Sessions Court with regard to the order passed by the Court, which shows that there was a serious lapse on the part of the jail authorities.
The Court referred to Policy Strategy for Grant of Bail, In re, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 483, wherein Supreme Court had given a slew of directions regarding the under trial prisoners and convicts. The Court noted that the Supreme Court had directed that it is the duty of the Superintendent of Jail to inform the Secretary, District Legal Services Authority (‘DLSA’) who may depute para legal volunteer or jail visiting advocate to interact with the prisoner and assist the prisoner in all ways possible for the release, if he is not released within a period of 7 days from the date of grant of bail. Further, the Court noted that it was also directed that in cases where the under trial or convict can furnish bail bond or sureties once released, then the Court may consider granting temporary bail for a specified period to the accused so that he can furnish bail bond or sureties.
The Court said that in the present matter, the case was not that the E-mail was not received by the jail authorities, but that they could not take an appropriate step in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and though they had received the E-mail, they were unable to open the attachment. The Court also noted that no efforts were made by the Sessions Court to see that the order for releasing the convict on bail, passed by the Division Bench of the Court was appropriately implemented and no follow-up was taken until a day before the hearing. The Court said that the order was passed on 29-09-2020 and the convict was released only the day before the hearing i.e., on 21-09-2023.
Considering the plight of the convict, the Court considered it appropriate to grant compensation for illegal incarceration in the jail for almost three years. The Court noted that the convict is aged about 27 years and had already undergone, as per the jail remarks, more than 5 years of imprisonment. Therefore, the Court said that in the interest of justice and in order to appropriately compensate the convict for the negligence of the jail authorities, the State was directed to grant him compensation of Rs.1,00,000/- within a period of 14 days.
Further, the Court noted that the DLSA had failed to fulfil its duty of identifying such cases and to point out the order to the jail authorities. Therefore, the Court directed all the DLSAs to undertake necessary exercise and collect the data of the under-trial prisoners/ convicts, in whose favour the release orders were passed but are not released, and shall also collect the reasons for their not having been released either for want of surety or non-execution of the jail bonds or for any other reason.
[Chandanji v. State of Gujarat, 2023 SCC OnLine Guj 3125, Order Dated: 22-09-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Respondent: Assistant Public Prosecutor Ronak Raval