The case of delayed bail and trial - Hindustan Times
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The case of delayed bail and trial

ByHT Editorial
Dec 05, 2023 10:13 PM IST

In UAPA cases, courts must either push for bail if there is an inordinate delay by the investigating agency in preparing charge sheet or ensure a speedy trial

The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) is India’s toughest terror law with draconian provisions. A lot of leeway is given to its form and operation because this country has been bruised by acts of terrorism multiple times. Yet, a comparison of the data from the National Crime Records Bureau’s ‘Crime in India’ (for 2022) on the time taken to file charge sheets under different laws makes for a disturbing reading. Charge sheets in close to 50% of UAPA cases have been filed at least a year after the FIR was registered — 15% of these charge sheets took more than two years. The comparative figures for special and local laws are that over 51.1% of charge sheets were filed in the first two months.

Charge sheets in close to 50% of UAPA cases have been filed at least a year after the FIR was registered — 15% of these charge sheets took more than two years. (Representational image) PREMIUM
Charge sheets in close to 50% of UAPA cases have been filed at least a year after the FIR was registered — 15% of these charge sheets took more than two years. (Representational image)

It is argued that UAPA cases are complex and much more time is needed to prepare a charge sheet. That may be so, but the argument does not square with the conviction rate in UAPA cases. In 2022, the conviction rate was just 18.2%. The pendency rate was as high as 89.3% with 3,177 cases pending in courts. The problem here is that the courts have raised the bar on bail in UAPA cases so high that it has become extremely difficult for any accused to exercise their right to bail. An amendment to the law in 2008 made it essential for the court to assess guilt by looking at the charge sheet. The 2019 Watali judgment further narrowed the window for bail in UAPA cases. The Court’s liberal position in KA Najeeb (2021) has failed to act as a judicial precedent while UAPA adjudications continue to remain inconsistent and judge-centric. The courts must either push for bail if there is an inordinate delay on the part of the investigating agency in preparing the charge sheet or ensure a speedy trial. When neither happens the legal process itself becomes the punishment.

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