A petition filed before Delhi High Court seeks directions to the Undertrial Review Committee to conduct review of under trials who are eligible to be released on bail, as per Supreme Court orders passed in 2015 and 2016.
The petition, filed by India Undertrial Prisoner Support Forum, seeks directions to Delhi’s Undertrial Review Committee to expedite review of bail of undertrial prisoners who have already undergone half the period of maximum incarceration in lesser offences, those charged with multiple offences. The petitioner picked data publicly available on the website of Delhi State Legal Service Authority.
The petitioner cited Supreme Court’s order in Re-Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons directing that Under Trial Review Committee (UTRC) ought to conduct a review after half the sentence of the lesser offence is completed by the undertrial prisoner. The court in its 2016 order in this case, widened the scope of UTRC’s mandate and directed to consider eligible release of prisoner under Section 437(6) of the Code and in a case triable by a Magistrate, the trial of a person accused of any non-bailable offence which has not been concluded within a period of sixty days from the first date fixed for taking evidence in the case.
Further, the Delhi High Court had also issued a direction, following the apex court’s order, to the UTRC to review every case to ascertain as to whether half of the sentence of the lesser offence is completed by the undertrial prisoners and take the necessary steps for their release.
The petition states that had the mandate of the apex court and Delhi High Court been followed by UTRC, then the prisons would have been decongested when Covid-19 was spreading in the country. Instead, undertrials and convicts were released on interim bail and parole and when they go back, the prisons will be more congested than before. The petition states that UTRC has reviewed 1,024 cases until September 2020 out of which 416 were released, while there are 1,205 eligible cases for review.
The petitioner states that prison authorities are not following proper Standard Operating Procedures and hence complete information on under trials is not reaching the UTRC. Further, the undertrials are not made aware for reasons of their rejection by the UTRC. Also, since measures of decongestion were taking place as precaution for Covid-19, the criterion set by the High Powered Committee are still being followed and taken on priority leaving other undertrials without any other remedy.
The petitioner states that following the apex court’s orders by UTRCs would be a permanent measure for decongesting jails and also to protect the right to life of undertrial prisoners, some of whom have even completed full sentences of their lesser offences.