A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Aravind Kumar said that people who are accused of offences punishable up to seven years of jail term and spent half of the sentence in jail be released as it would unclutter not only jails which are over crowded but also the judicial system with such cases being removed from the court’s docket and trial courts could focus on proceedings in cases involving serious offences.
The move will reduce state expenditure and improve the quality of prisons. It will enable petty criminals, who have already spent several years in jail, to begin a new life. That’s a nice way to celebrate 75 years of independence. The proposal should be actively considered.
The bench said that the out-of-box thinking was needed to deal with the chronic problem of jail overcrowding and huge pendency of cases. It asked additional solicitor general K M Nataraj to place the proposal before the Centre and take instruction whether it could be done.
“Trial proceedings can be dropped and the prisoners can be released in less heinous cases where the accused have spent substantial time in jail and trial is still pending. Take a personal bond of good behaviour and release them and do not go ahead with the trial in those cases,” the bench suggested to the ASG.
As lower courts are overburdened with more than 4 crore pending cases and 76% of the prisoners languishing in jails are undertrials, most of them poor and illiterate, such measures would bring relief to them as many of them remain in jail for failing to furnish bail bond. The bench said that such a decision was needed to unclog courts and also jails as the concept of plea bargaining has not been successful in the country due to social stigma attached to people accepting guilt.