The Supreme Court recently underlined that “there is a pressing need” for reform in the law related to bail and called on the government to consider framing a special legislation on the lines of the law in the United Kingdom.
The law on bail
- The CrPC does not define the word bail but only categories offences under the Indian Penal Code as ‘bailable’ and ‘non-bailable’.
- The CrPC empowers magistrates to grant bail for bailable offences as a matter of right.
- This would involve release on furnishing a bail bond, with or without security.
- Non-bailable offences are cognisable, which enables the police officer to arrest without a warrant.
- In such cases, a magistrate would determine if the accused is fit to be released on bail.
The UK law:
- The Bail Act of the United Kingdom, 1976, prescribes the procedure for granting bail.
- A key feature is that one of the aims of the legislation is “reducing the size of the inmate population”.
- The law also has provisions for ensuring legal aid for defendants.
- The Act recognises a “general right” to be granted bail.
The court’s ruling is in the form of guidelines, and it also draws the line on certain procedural issues for the police and judiciary.
- Separate law for bail:
- The court underlined that the CrPC, despite amendments since Independence, largely retains its original structure as drafted by a colonial power over its subjects.
- It also highlighted that magistrates do not necessarily exercise their discretionary powers uniformly. The court’s solution on this is the framing of a separate law that deals with the grant of bail.
- It emphasised that even for cognisable offences, arrest is not mandatory and must be “necessitated”.
- “There need not be any insistence of a bail application while considering the application under Section 88, 170, 204 and 209 of the Code,” the court held.
- These sections relate to various stages of a trial where a magistrate can decide on release of an accused.
- The Supreme Court held that in these circumstances, magistrates must routinely consider granting bail, without insisting on a separate bail application.
Direction to states:
- The SC also directed all state governments and Union Territories to facilitate standing orders to comply with the orders and avoid indiscriminate arrests.
- The CBI has already communicated earlier orders of the Court to special judges under its jurisdiction.
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