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 conditions for grant of bail as it now feels that amendments in CrPC can help do away with cumbersome procedures involved in getting the relief.
In September last year, the then Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda had asked the then Law Secretary P K Malhotra to ask 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 suggested the need for examining the desirability of having a separate Bail Act under 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 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…,” 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 in the the Code of Criminal Procedure (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 latest decision of the government in mind while giving its report on the subject.
In his note, Gowda had remarked that though the judiciary adopts a very elaborate procedure to deal with matters related to grant 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 of grant of bail, he 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 consisting of one-third of convicts and two-third of undertrials, he said, “It is a sad state of affairs”.