‘Just too much’ that people given bail by courts have to wait for days to be freed, says CJI

Chief Justice N.V. Ramana announces scheme by which the Supreme Court would instantly, directly, securely and electronically transmit bail and other orders to jail authorities, district courts and High Courts

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana on Friday said “it is just too much” that people given bail by courts, even by the Supreme Court, have to wait for days before prison authorities release them.

The Chief Justice, heading a Special Bench, voiced the Supreme Court’s exasperation at prison authorities who insist on receiving by hand the “authentic” hard copy of the bail order regardless of the fact that the personal liberty of people suffers.

“In this age of information and communication technology, we are still looking at the skies for the pigeons to communicate the orders,” Chief Justice Ramana remarked orally.

So, as a solution, the Chief Justice, flanked by Justices L. Nageswara Rao and A.S. Bopanna, announced in open court the rolling out of a new scheme called ‘FASTER’ or ‘Fast and Secure Transmission of Electronic Records’ by which the Supreme Court would instantly, directly, securely and electronically transmit bail and other orders to jail authorities, district courts and High Courts. Attorney General K.K. Venugopal appreciated the court’s initiative.

When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said orders anyway were uploaded on the court website, Justice Rao said “the idea behind the scheme is to transmit orders securely”.

The Bench asked State governments to file their reports about the Internet connectivity in their jails to prevent technical glitches in future. The Secretary General of the Supreme Court was directed to submit a comprehensive report formulating the scheme within two weeks.

The hearing was based on a suo motu case, ‘In Re: Delay in release of convicts after grant of bail’, registered on the initiative of Chief Justice Ramana to confront the problem which affects the liberty and dignity of prisoners.

Recently, 13 prisoners in Agra Jail, who suffered imprisonment for up to two decades despite the Juvenile Justice Board declaring them ‘juveniles’ at the time of commission of their crimes, were granted bail by the Supreme Court on July 8, but were only released by the prison authorities after a delay of four days.

Again, Pinjra Tod activists Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal and Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha walked out of Tihar Jail nearly two days after the Delhi High Court granted them bail.

The Supreme Court has made concerted moves in the recent months to de-congest prisons amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May, a Bench led by Chief Justice Ramana had ordered the police to limit arrests during the pandemic to prevent over-crowding in jails and urged courts to not order detention in a mechanical manner.

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