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Tripura HC directs district judges to carry out weekly review of undertrials still in jail despite bail

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The Tripura High Court has directed the District & Sessions Judges to take weekly review of cases where bail has been granted and the accused persons have not yet been released.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice S.G. Chattopadhyay heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) registered on the basis of a letter addressed by one Nallapu Manideep addressed to the Chief Justice bringing to the attention of the Court that Under Trial Prisoners (UTPs) in Tripura are remaining in custody despite grant of bail by competent court due to their alleged incapability to furnish bail bonds and sureties. 

On receipt of such communication, directions were issued on the administrative side to the Registrar General of the Court to obtain information from all District and Sessions Judges in Tripura. 

The issue raised has repeatedly been dealt with by the  Supreme Court in various judgments from time to time and the latest being in the case of Satender Kumar Antil versus Central Bureau of Investigation & Anr. vide judgment dated 11th July, 2022 wherein the  Supreme Court directed the High Courts to undertake the exercise of finding out the UTPs who are not able to comply with the bail conditions and after doing so, appropriate action will have to be taken in the light of Section 440 of the Code facilitating release. Further, in para (i), the Supreme Court has directed that “while insisting upon sureties the mandate of Section 440 of the Code has to be kept in mind”.   

The High Court held that there can be no doubt that once an accused is granted bail by the court, the accused is entitled to be set free subject to the compliance of the conditions imposed in the order granting bail. On the report furnished to this Court by the Registrar General on the information received by him from  all the District and Sessions Judges of the State, we find in the said latest report that, in fact, the number has reduced to 115, although it was alleged in the letter of the informant that there are 175 persons who have been granted bail but remained in custody.

In view of such circumstances and the directions issued by the  Supreme Court, the High Court hereby direct as follows : 
(i) The District & Sessions Judges of the respective districts shall take the assistance of the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) and ensure that lawyers of the DLSA meet the 115 accused persons wherever they may be in custody and advice the said accused to make application seeking modification of conditions of bail either through the lawyers whom they had engaged or through the counsel which the DLSA may engage for such reason. Such applications be filed at the earliest. 
(ii) The learned District & Sessions Judges shall instruct all the learned Trial Judges to take up such application for modification of conditions of bail at an expeditious manner strictly in terms of Section 440 of the Cr.P.C and make such variances in the conditions imposed as they may find just and proper. All such applications for modification of  conditions filed in the cases which form part of the appendix to this order shall be disposed of within a week of its filing positively. We hope and trust that with the cooperation of the advocates of such litigants who remain in custody in spite of bail and/or the lawyers provided to the accused by the DLSAs, this exercise must be taken up in dourness and reports by the Districts and Sessions Judge of all such cases where conditions of bail have been varied and the number of accused have been released shall be furnished to this Court latest by the 27th September, 2022. Registry is directed to collate all such reports and this matter shall be taken up on the 28th September, 2022. 
(iii) The learned Advocate General is requested to instruct all Public Prosecutors to consider each case on its own merits, and if so necessary, not to unnecessarily object to variation of conditions that may be sought for.

The High Court further directed the District & Sessions Judges to take weekly review of cases where bails have been granted and the accused persons have not yet been released and simultaneously and the jail authorities to submit weekly reports on similar topic to the District & Sessions Judges so that appropriate steps as  may be necessary under Section 440 can be initiated through the lawyers who appeared for the accused persons and/or through lawyers who may be appointed through the concerned DLSA.

The matter has been listed for further hearing on September 28.

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