A judge was recently reported to have released a man on bail on the condition that he educates five underprivileged children..A peek into the orders of Additional District and Sessions Judge Avinash Kumar of the sub-divisional court of Jhanjharpur, Bihar shows that this is not the first time he has imposed such a condition. He has made it a habit to impose bail conditions that are aimed towards public good, addressing issues such as global warming and socio-economic disparity..Tucked away in the northern part of Bihar, Jhanjharpur is a town and sub-division of the Madhubani district, also renowned for its paintings. And if Judge Kumar continues imposing his offbeat bail conditions, it will also be known for its lush green cover..In a bail order passed on July 9, 2021, one Santosh Poddar sought bail before Judge Kumar. Poddar had been in custody since May 7, 2021 in a criminal case attracting charges that included attempt to murder.Though Poddar was allowed bail on a bond of ₹10,000 with two sureties, he was directed to “plant five fruit-bearing trees” in his locality or public place like a temple, park, etc, and surround it with a boundary. This, the judge said, would,"...help and have some contribution of the accused-petitioner towards protection of environment which is the need of present hour of global warning, as being encouraged by international organization like UNO as well as Central Government and Bihar Government in the form of Jal Jiwan Hariali Scheme."The petitioner was also directed to file photographs of the plantation of the trees within 30 days of his release..A similar bail condition was imposed in an order dated August 5 this year, when one Rinku Kumar moved a bail plea in a case saying he had been in jail since March 23, 2021, in connection with a theft case. Considering his period of custody and Kumar's clean antecedents, the Court allowed his plea subject to “community service by planting 10 fruit-bearing trees” in public spaces. Usual riders of bail bonds and sureties were also asked to be furnished..Again, on August 4, in a case of house trespass, petitioner Binod Yadav was let off on a similar direction to plant 10 fruit-bearing trees.On the same day, Somnath Singh, facing a case under various charges of the Indian Penal Code, was allowed bail on the same additional condition.“Considering the fact that there is no specific allegation against the petitioner, his custody since 18-4-2021, case and counter case between the parties, the prayer of the petitioner for bail is allowed and he is directed to be released on bail on furnishing bail bond of Rs 10,000 with two sureties of the like amount each to the satisfaction of the learned court below with condition that the petitioner shall plant 10 fruit bearing trees with gabian (ghera) in temple/park, etc., and submit the photograph of the same within 30 days from the date of his release, in the court concerned,” the order read..On August 3, Ganesh Mukhiya, accused in an Arms Act case, was granted the reprieve and directed to plant 25 such trees “in public places including a temple or a park or a mosque.” The judge has imposed similar bail conditions in several other cases..Judge Kumar also recently heard a bail plea of Hem Narayan Bharti, a teacher who was found to have violated COVID-19 norms and had been in custody since April 20, 2021.On July 13, 2021, when the bail order was being decided, the judge granted the teacher bail on several conditions that also included “free education to five poor children in his school upto Class V.”.While these novel directions were passed with a view to facilitate improvements to the immediate society in which the accused reside, the questions arises as to whether imposing such bail conditions on persons who are yet to be convicted is improper..Lawyers on the propriety of novel bail conditions.Senior Counsel N Hariharan recalled filmmaker V Shantaram’s iconic film Do Aankh 12 Haath, which was based on a true story of a princely state where a social experiment to rehabilitate convicts was carried out. They were made to operate a farm and exhibit good behaviour in order to be rehabilitated in the society.Though a successful experiment depicting correctional methods for prison reforms, it was carried out only post-trial, on convicts.Hariharan argued that the central idea of bail was the intent of legislation governing it and though the judge's intention may be good, the purpose was not served here as the idea was to secure the accused's presence during trial and presume that the accused is innocent till proven guilty.“There is an essential difference when imposing conditions while granting bail. The central idea of bail is ensure the presence the of the person in order to face trial. Such conditions would mitigate the central idea of bail,” said Hariharan.The senior lawyer went on the explain that directions to educate children or plant trees had nothing to do with the purpose of legal provisions governing the grant of bail.“An accused has to given an undertaking that he or she would be present on every date of hearing. It is also to ensure that the accused will be present at the time of their conviction. This is uncalled for judicial activism defeating the purpose of registration. Conditions are to ensure presence of person when he is pronounced guilty. You can’t pre-determine the guilt as it mitigates the idea of fair trial under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution,” he added..Advocate Arpit Bhargava pointed out that granting bail and imposing conditions for the same were at the discretion of a judge. “And exercise of discretion ideally should not be put to question unless it is against public policy or interest. As such, this path adopted by some judges is with good intention so that better sense prevails amongst people who land up in court after committing an alleged offence,” he said.For the lawyer, the crucial aspect was to ensure that the conditions were actually implemented. “Therefore, the judge ought to impose conditions with checks and balances that are capable of being executed in letter and spirit and not on paper. This way, the majesty of law and respect of judges will be intact and such questions on exercising arbitrary discretion will also not arise,” noted Bhargava.