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Delhi High Court issues notice to Delhi govt, DSLSA on plea regarding undertrials unable to avail legal remedies

The petition has been filed by Advocate Alok Tripathi, who has been attending the inmates of Tihar jail, highlighting the plight of several Under Trial Prisoners who have been incapacitated to move bail applications on the pretext of lack of sufficient means to procure a copy of case documents.

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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought response from the Delhi Government and the Delhi State Legal Services Authority on a petition alleging that a large number of undertrial prisoners lodged in jails in the national capital are unable to avail legal remedies available to them on account of non-availability of case documents, including a copy of the First Information Report, charge sheet, evidence recorded before the Trial Court and relevant court orders.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice on a plea filed by an empanelled lawyer of the Delhi High Court Legal Service Committee (DHCLSC) and posted the matter for further hearing on November 29.

The petition has been filed by Advocate Alok Tripathi, who has been attending the inmates of Tihar jail, highlighting the plight of several Undertrial prisoners, who have been incapacitated to move bail applications on the pretext of lack of sufficient means to procure a copy of case documents.

“Such UTPs are so precariously entangled that neither there is any progress in their trial, nor have they been able to avail the remedy of filing bail applications before the Courts, which is a serious infringement of their fundamental right to seek remedies provided under law,” said the plea.

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It challenged a circular issued by DSLSA on January 7, 2019, which restricted the inmates from obtaining a copy of their documents and put a complete bar on the UTPs having private counsels to obtain certified copy of documents.

The plea pointed out that a representation was made before the DSLSA on July 27, 2021, highlighting the above concern, however, no action has been taken on the representation till date.

In light of the above, the plea sought direction to provide the undertrial prisoners a copy of the case documents, including FIR, charge sheet, evidence or other trial court records. In addition, the plea sought direction for sending the copy of First Information Report to the jail, if and when the accused is sent to judicial custody.

The plea also prayed for devising a mechanism to scan and upload the case documents of UTPs on the website of District Courts; as also a direction to the trial courts to upload the copy of recorded evidence and daily order sheets, as and when recorded on their respective websites. 

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The plea inter alia sought quashing of the circular issued by DSLSA regarding prohibiting the UTPs having private counsel to obtain the certified copy of the documents; as also a direction to put the said circular in abeyance till complete resumption of physical functioning of the court, and allowing the UTPs to attend their matters physically.

Citing that the Covid-19 pandemic has restricted functioning of the court, the plea further said, “Trial of UTPs is not likely to proceed for further time of 5-6 months, thereby keeping the UTPs in jail for a further period without having any remedy of filing bail applications…is a serious infringement of their fundamental right enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.

“The trial in the matters is not progressing due to the circumstances beyond control and as such, the UTPs cannot be withheld to pursue legal remedies available under law till indefinite period of time,” it added.

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