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COVID-19: Delhi HC orders release of undertrial prisoners without surety bond to decongest prisons

Aditi Singh

With a view to decongesting prisons during the Coronavirus lockdown, the Delhi High Court today directed that undertrial prisoners be released without furnishing a surety bond [Court of its own motion v. State].

This would apply to bail orders involving undertrials passed by the High Court or courts subordinate to it, on or before April 7, 2020.

The High Court has held that the undertrial prisoners may now be released on their furnishing a personal bond to the satisfaction of the Superintendent of Jail.

The order was passed by a Division Bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Manoj Kumar Ohri in view of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Court has clarfied that this modifcation order shall not treated as creating any precedent.

In the meeting of the High Powered Committee on decongestion of Delhi jails on April 7, 2020, it was noted that although a large number of undertrial prisoners had been granted bail, they were still in jail for want of sureties.

The Committee further noted that the undertrial prisoners might have been incapacitated to furnish bail bonds and surety bonds due to the COVID-19 outbeak. It was thus resolved that the bail orders qua such prisoners were required to be modified in order to allow their release on furnishing personal bond.

Consequently, the Member Secretary of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) moved the High Court for a judicial order to this effect.

Appearing before the Bench, Standing Counsel Rahul Mehra submitted that the judicial direction as recommended by the Committee would be in consonance with Supreme Court's decisions in Moti Ram v. State of Madhya Pradesh (1978) and RD Upadhyay v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1996), which permit the grant of bail on furnishing personal bond only.

In view of the above, the Court ordered,

" view of the unprecedented prevailing circumstances and the matter of decongesting the prisons with which the Supreme Court was concerned in the writ petition aforesaid, and without creating any precedent, a case for modifying the bail orders passed either by this Court or by any court subordinate to it, on or before 7th April, 2020, thereby doing away with the condition of furnishing surety bond and instead, allowing the under-trial prisoners to be released on their furnishing personal bond to the satisfaction of Superintendant of Jail, is made out. We order accordingly."
Delhi High Court

It was further clarified that the order should not be construed as changing any other condition, if any, imposed in the bail orders.

Read the Order:

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