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New move by High Court,bail on first hearing

Existing procedure makes accused wait for months before regular bail plea is decided.

Written by RAGHAV OHRI | Chandigarh | Updated: March 14, 2014 11:53:29 am

In a landmark decision the Punjab and Haryana High Court has decided to abolish its archaic,lengthy process of deciding regular bail applications.

Under existing procedures,an accused has to wait “few” months for his/her regular bail application to be decided. The court first issues notices to the concerned State government,seeks its response,summons the investigating officer (IO) if required,and hears the arguments before deciding on the application. The entire exercise normally takes at least four to five months. In fact,in some cases,the bail comes up for first hearing (after notices) after four months.

This procedure has now been scrapped. The high court,on the administrative side,has decided that from now on,all regular bail applications will be decided on the very first hearing. As per the new procedure,bail applications will be listed exactly a week after filing. The concerned State government/police agency will get a week to prepare its reply and IO summoned. On the first hearing the court will hear arguments of both parties,enquire from the IO and decide on the bail plea.

This decision — taken by a three-judge committee comprising Justices Surya Kant,Amol Rattan Singh and M S Chauhan — is likely to be implemented by November 6.

Due consultations with Advocate Generals of Punjab,Haryana and senior public prosecutor for Chandigarh,R S Rai,were held before the decision was taken. Taking note of the undue delays in the High Court in deciding regular bail applications,a body of lawyers had suggested an overhaul of the decades old system. Finding merit in the suggestion,the then Chief Justice had constituted the three-judge committee to look into the issue.

This development assumes significance as it will end the delay of several months,in some cases as long as nine months. All applications will be decided the same day. For speedy and effective implementation,the National Informatics Centre (NIC) will be told to make necessary amendments so that update of such cases is reflected in the daily list.

The new procedure will also apply to cases of “suspension of sentence”. These are cases where a guilty after conviction moves High Court seeking suspension of his sentence. It came to light that such cases were also hanging fire for several months awaiting final disposal.

The new system for disposing bail will however,apply only to “regular” bail applications and not anticipatory bail applications. A regular bail application is filed in the high court after a person is sent behind bars by a lower court either after his arrest by an investigating agency or holding him guilty for an offence.

For anticipatory bail applications,“routine” procedure will be adopted. “The decision has been taken keeping in view the injustice caused to an accused or a convict who is made to rot in jail for no fault of his. It was noticed in umpteen cases that people were languishing behind bars just because their bail applications were not decided for several months. The new procedure leaves no room for delay. Now,all bail applications and petitions seeking suspension of sentence will be decided on the very first hearing,” said a senior high court officer.

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