Poverty cannot be a ground for keeping a person behind the bars in petty offence cases due to non-furnishing of bail amount, the Supreme Court on Friday said and asked state legal services authority lawyers to move courts across the country to secure the release.
“Poverty can’t be a ground for keeping in custody an accused who is unable to furnish the bail bond,” the social justice bench, comprising justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit, said.
The bench noted a large number of persons are still languishing in jails for not furnishing the bail bonds and directed the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSA) to ask their empaneled lawyers to file urgent applications seeking release of such undertrials.
During the hearing, the bench said that in Uttar Pradesh alone, there are 530 undertrials in jails as they could not satisfy the bail conditions.
Referring to the contents of the affidavit, filed by the Home Ministry, the bench said that 67 per cent of total inmates in prisons across the country are undertrials.
The MHA, in its affidavit, said that as on December 31, 2013, 2,78,000 persons were in jails across the country.
The court said that the cases of prisoners, accused of compoundable offences and of undertrials, who have completed half of the jail term which they would undergo in case of conviction, can be taken up by SLSAs.
It further said that SLSAs, comprising District Judges, District Magistrates and District Superintendents of Police, will hold its meeting on June 30 to review such cases.
Earlier, the court had asked MHA to provide information including the total number of people who are still in jails in connection with petty criminal cases for not paying the bail bond amount.
It had also asked state governments and union territories (UTs) to cooperate with the central government and provide requisite information within three weeks.
The bench is hearing a PIL alleging inhuman conditions prevailing in 1382 prisons across the country.
The plea said that people have been in jails even in bailable offence cases.