The Law Commission today recommended the “electronic tagging” of people accused of grave crimes, saying it would help reduce pressure on overcrowded jails as well as keep a check on people hoping to evade the law. The commission, however, warned that the system should only be used with the “highest degree of caution” after changing laws. Electronic tagging has the potential to reduce both fugitive rates, by ensuring that a defendant can easily be located, and government expenditure, by reducing the number of defendants detained at state expense.
In its report submitted to the law ministry today on “Provisions relating to bail”, the panel quoted a New Zealand law to define electronic tagging or electronically monitored (EM) bail as a mechanism that is also known as a “restrictive” form of bail.
“A person on EM bail must remain at a specified residence at all times unless special permission to leave is granted for an approved purpose (such as work). Compliance is monitored via an electronically monitored anklet that must be worn 24 hours a day,” it said. EM bail is available in New Zealand for defendants and young people aged between 12 and 17 years who would otherwise continue to be held in custody in prison while they waited for a court hearing. But at the same time, the Commission warned that electronic tagging had a “grave and significant impact on the constitutional rights” of individuals.
“It must be implemented with the highest degree of caution. Such monitoring must be used only in grave and heinous crimes, where the accused person has a prior conviction in similar offences. This may be done by amending the appropriate legislations to restrict the application of electronic tagging…,” it said.
It also recommended that section 50 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) be amended to ensure that a person arrested is given in writing, in the language he or she understands, the reasons for the arrest. It also said a person should not continue to remain behind bars as an undertrial because of an incomplete investigation.
“A bail condition must not unreasonably violate the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. If the prosecution cannot show through evidence that the person accused of an offence is at the risk of absconding, or is likely to commit the same offence, the accused should be considered eligible for release,” it recommended.
The Law Commission, headed by Justice (retd) B S Chauhan, said it was of the opinion that anticipatory bail must not only be granted with caution but must also be made operative for a limited period of time.
It said under trials accused of crimes carrying a punishment of seven years in jail should be released on bail if they have spent one-third of that time, or two-and-half years, behind bars while on trial. The Commission also recommended that those who were accused of crimes which attracted a term of over seven years be released on bail if they had spent half of the term behind bars on trial.
It said under trials who could not produce a non-monetary surety an undertaking by an individual that the undertrial will appear before authorities when required should be allowed to instead deposit government identity documents such as Aadhaar or PAN cards to get bail.
As of now, Section 436 A of the CrPC deals with the maximum period for which an underc trial prisoner can be detained. Under the law, those accused of a crime which is not an offence where the punishment is death should be released on bail if they have been in jail for a period “extending up to one-half of the maximum period of imprisonment specified for that offence under that law”. Two-thirds of prison inmates in India are undertrials, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has said.