New Delhi Sept 16: The Supreme Court Thursday said that convicts who have completed 10 years of their life sentence and whose appeals would not be heard in the near future by the High Court should be enlarged on bail unless there exist cogent reasons to deny the relief.
The top court said that it needs to keep the objective of decongesting the jails in mind in the case of convicts, whose appeals have been pending for years against conviction and are not likely to be heard in the near future by the high courts due to pendency of cases.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay S Oka was hearing a batch of pleas of convicts sentenced to life terms seeking bail on the ground that their appeals are pending for years before different high courts and are not likely to be heard in near future due to huge pendency of cases clogging the judicial system.
It said, "…We are of the view that convicts, who have completed 10 years of their sentences and their appeal are not likely to be heard in near future, with no extenuating circumstances, should be enlarged on bail".
The bench said that its endeavour is two-fold --first, convicts having undergone more than 10 years imprisonment unless there exist cogent reasons to deny them the relief, they should be enlarged on bail, secondly, identification of cases where convicts have completed 14 years of custody, in which event, a case can be referred to the government for considering premature release within a fixed time period irrespective of pendency of their appeals.
Amicus curiae Gaurav Agarwal said that as per the earlier order of the top court asking six high courts to furnish the details, he has filed an affidavit.
He said that the data from the High Court suggests that there are 5740 cases, where appeals are pending whether at a single bench level or a division bench level.
Agarwal said that Allahabad High Court has the highest pendency of appeals and 385 convicts had undergone more than 14 years of their sentence, while as per the data of Patna High Court, cases of 268 convicts are being considered for premature release.
The bench said, "We have to keep in mind the objective of decongesting the jail in case of convicts, whose appeals are not being heard for years and are not likely to be heard in near future".
It said, "The exercise has to be undertaken on an urgent basis so that a situation does not arise, where a convict completes the minimum sentence, which would make him eligible for remission".
It granted four months to the high courts and state legal service authorities to carry out the exercise and posted the matter for monitoring the compliance in January, next year.
The bench said that its order will be applicable to all the High Courts after compilation of the data of convicts, who have completed 10 and 14 years in prison respectively.