Government Drops Plan for New Bail Law

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A view of Parliament House in New Delhi. Credit: PTI/Atul Yadav

A view of Parliament House in New Delhi. Credit: PTI/Atul Yadav

New Delhi: Just over a year after it was conceived, the government has junked a plan to come out with a new law that clearly sets out the conditions for granting bail as it now feels that amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) can help do away with the cumbersome procedures required for getting relief.

In September last year, the then law minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda had asked then law secretary P.K. Malhotra to request the Law Commission to recommend a stand alone Bail Act to quell the perception that the existing system is “inextricably linked to the financial well-being of the accused”.

Gowda had brought up the need for examining the desirability of a separate Bail Act as part of a discussion about executing a “major revamp” of the bail system.

The minister had said bail should be granted as a matter of right and be denied only when there is a fear that the accused can tamper with evidence, influence witnesses or commit more crimes while out of jail.

“However, in practice it does not happen for various reasons, like delay in hearing bail applications due to heavy workload in the courts, the cumbersome procedure adopted for hearing and deciding bail applications…,” he had said.

While the Law Commission is already working on a report to recommend a new legislation, the law ministry has now asked it to only recommend changes for the CrPC.

“… the matter has been re-examined by the central government and it has been decided that there may be no need for a stand alone Bail Act,” the ministry has told the commission.

The law ministry communication noted that the desired objective can be achieved “by bringing necessary changes in the existing provisions of the CrPC”.

It said the law panel should keep the government’s latest decision in mind as it works on its report on the subject.

In his note, Gowda had remarked that though the judiciary has a very elaborate procedure to deal with matters related to the granting of bail, “still the system has the general perception among people that grant or denial is highly unpredictable…”

The bail system is linked inextricably to property and financial well-being of the accused, meaning thereby that accused persons with means.”

Noting that there is “growing dissatisfaction” about the system, Gowda said that though it is a uniform and reasonable provision in theory, “in practice it does not prove to be so”.

Noting that the occupancy in Indian prisons has been reported to be broken down into one-third convicts and two-thirds undertrials, he said, “it is a sad state of affairs”.

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