A case for SC intervention: Can convict be jailed indefinitely while appeal drags on?
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine this question raised in a petition filed by a group of lawyers, who challenged a Madhya Pradesh high court order stating that inordinate delay in deciding an appeal cannot be grounds for releasing a convict on bail.Updated: Sep 04, 2017 22:13 IST
Should a person convicted in a criminal case be forced to languish in jail indefinitely, until his or her appeal is disposed of by a higher court?
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine this question raised in a petition filed by a group of lawyers, who challenged a Madhya Pradesh high court order stating that inordinate delay in deciding an appeal cannot be grounds for releasing a convict on bail.
Advocate Navin Prakash, the counsel for the petitioner, stated that the high court was yet to hear appeals filed in 1999-2000. “In some cases, the appeals were rendered infructuous because the person remained in jail for a longer period than the sentence received. But the conviction was not set aside,” he told a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar.
“Bail is an assurance of one’s liberty. This is a matter of serious concern,” the bench replied, issuing a notice to the Madhya Pradesh government. It even asked the high court registry to furnish details on the number of appeals pending before it, besides instances where life imprisonment was awarded.
Justice Chelameswar made a comparison between the Allahabad high court, where appeals are not looked into for more than 20 years, and the Andhra Pradesh high court during his exit in 2007, when appeals not over two years old were being heard. “If one high court can do it, then why can’t others?” he remarked.
The matter was then adjourned for six weeks.
A three-judge bench of the Madhya Pradesh high court had held on April 26 that a convicted person cannot be released on bail merely because he or she had served a substantial part of the sentence in jail during the pendency of the appeal. According to petitioners, the situation has now worsened to the extent that the convict-appellants – in certain cases – have remained incarcerated for periods almost equivalent to that of the sentence and their appeals.
“It would indeed be a travesty of justice to keep a person in jail for a period of five or six years for an offence that is ultimately not found to have been committed by him. Can the court ever compensate him for his incarceration, which is found to be unjustified?” the appeal filed by the lawyers’ body read.