Directions for release of undertrial prisoners issued

Supreme Court: Considering the fact that a large number of undertrial prisoners housed in the prisons, the 3-judge bench of R.M. Lodha, CJ and Kurian Joseph and R.F. Nariman, JJ directed the jurisdictional Magistrate/Chief Judicial Magistrate/Sessions Judge to hold one sitting in a week in each jail/prison for two months commencing from 1st October, 2014 for the purposes of effective implementation of 436A CrPC which provides for the maximum period for which an undertrial prisoner can be detained. The Court was of the opinion that such step was necessary in the interest of criminal justice as by identifying the under-trial prisoners who have completed half period of the maximum period or maximum period of imprisonment provided for the said offence under the law, appropriate orders could be passed in jail itself for release of such under-trial prisoners who fulfill the requirement of Section 436A CrPC for their release immediately.

The attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, upon being asked by the Court to submit a report upon the steps being taken by the Government of India for fast-tracking the criminal justice in India, submitted before the Court that process of consultation with the State Governments for fast-tracking criminal justice has already been commenced by the Central Government but the blueprint/road-map for fast-tracking of criminal cases shall take some time. However, he also pointed out that more that 50% of the prisoners in various jails were undertrial prisoners and that many of them may have served maximum sentence prescribed under the law for the offences they have been charged with.

The Court was, hence, of the opinion that it is high time, positive steps are taken by the Central Government in consultation with the State Governments in fast tracking all types of criminal cases so that criminal justice is delivered timely and expeditiously. [Bhim Singh v. Union of India, Writ Petition(s)(Criminal) No(s). 310 of 2005, decided on 05.09.2014]

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