The Centre is mulling over enacting a comprehensive law that clearly sets out conditions for granting bail to an accused, thereby ending the discretion of courts. In doing so, the government also hopes to end the growing perception that the existing system of granting bail is “inextricably linked to the financial well-being of the accused”.
Union Law Secretary P K Malhotra has written to the Law Commission of India, asking it to study the issue and submit a report within six months.
Incidentally, the government is yet to constitute the Law Commission after the term of the previous team ended in August-end.
The Law Ministry’s move comes after the recent controversy over the bail to actor Salman Khan. The Bombay High Court had in May suspended his five-year sentence in the 2002 hit-and-run case and granted him bail pending his appeal against conviction.
Malhotra referred the matter to the Law Commission after Union Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda noted in an internal note that all was “not well with the way cases relating to grant of bail are being handled”.
“While those with resources are able to secure relief, the poorer lot languish in jails,” Gowda’s note said, arguing the need for examining the desirability of having a separate Bail Act under a “major revamp” of the bail system.
Bail, Gowda said, should be granted as a matter of right and be denied only when there is a fear that the accused can tamper with the 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, the accused not being able to produce sureties as well as lack of awareness among the underprivileged and marginalised sections of the society,” he said.
Salman Khan’s bail had triggered a debate on how influential people manage to secure bail but the poor continue to languish in jail.