The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that prisoners who have served at least ten years of their sentence and whose appeals are unlikely to be considered anytime soon should be released on bail if no other extenuating circumstances exist. (In Regard To: Policy Strategy for Bail Grant)
Three petitions were being heard by a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh: two concerned individual petitioners’ requests for bail (arising from the Allahabad High Court), and one was a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) that the supreme court brought in order to develop a strategy for granting bail in situations where appeals of trial court convictions have been pending for a considerable amount of time.
The bench said that all people who have served their 10-year sentences and whose appeal is not close to being heard, with no extenuating circumstances, should be expanded on bail. “We can appreciate if any of the parties is delaying the bail itself, but short of that, we are of the opinion,” the bench said.
The highest court decided that the instructions given today would apply to all High Courts, inferring that each of them must carry out the same tasks.
Six High Courts have submitted affidavits regarding the exercise of identifying life criminals being carried out, Amicus Curiae Gaurav Agarwal informed the bench during the hearing on Thursday.
The bench subsequently emphasised that the exercise’s goal was to find situations that were appropriate for the granting of bail or remission for those who had been incarcerated for a protracted period of time.
Earlier orders from the Supreme Court in the same case set forth guidelines for disposing of all bail and appeal arguments regarding a single offence in one sitting and expanding the accused’s access to bail absent exceptional circumstances.
Similar directives about the possibility of commuted sentences for inmates serving more than 14 years in prison were also passed, and it was made plain that vacation benches may handle such cases.
One of the appellants in the current case sought the highest court earlier this year because the High Court continued to consider his criminal appeal from 2012 even though his bail application was denied in 2019.
The High Court’s actions in the appeal angered the Bench, which declared in a March judgement that it was “of the view that the bail should have been for the asking and the impugned order is totally unsustainable.”
The appellant’s attorney informed the top court during that hearing that there are other instances of people who have been imprisoned for more than 16 years who are waiting for the High Court’s Lucknow bench to consider granting them bail. The top court noted that there had been no bench to hear criminal cases for the previous 25 days in response.
In Saudan Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh (Crl. Appeal No. 308/ 2022) dated February 25, 2022, the court stated: “This is a troubling state of affairs, made more so because we have been concerned about the pendency of bail matters before the High Court of Allahabad and the Lucknow Bench and had even issued directions in this regard for expediting the same.”
As a result, the Lucknow Bench Registrar had been instructed to provide a report on the matter as well as the number of cases involving pending bail applications where the length of confinement exceeded ten years.
While noting that criminal benches were in session at the time, the aforementioned research found that in 1561 cases, the accused had been imprisoned for more than 10 years without having their appeals or bail requests reviewed.
The appellant-Suleman was represented by attorneys Mohd Irshad Hanif, Aarif Ali, Rizwan Ahmad, Mujahid Ahmad, and Nishant Vyas.
Additional Attorney General Garima Parshad appeared on behalf of the State alongside attorneys Ajay Vikram Singh, Priyanka Singh, Ajay Kumar Prajapati, Shekher Shrotria, Yashvardhan, and Nikhil Goel.