The Delhi High Court recently asked the High Powered Committee (HPC) , constituted to frame guidelines for the decongestion of prisons during COVID, to clarify if Undertrial Prisoners (UTPs) accused of robbery, dacoity, kidnapping and allied offences are eligible for interim bail (Manish Kumar @ Manny vs. State).
Pertinently, UTPs facing trial for robbery, kidnapping, dacoity and allied offences including those under Sections 364A (kidnapping for ransom etc.) 394 (causing hurt in committing robbery), 397 (robbery, or dacoity, with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) have not been referred to in the Exclusion Clause of the HPC.
The Exclusion Clause lists various categories of UTPs who will not be considered for interim bail, including those facing allegations of terrorism, possession of a large quantity of drugs under the NDPS Act, penetrative child sexual assault, corruption, those facing UAPA trial etc.
Single-judge Justice Subramonium Prasad asked the HPC to clarify whether its guidelines for the release of undertrial prisoners amid COVID would extend to UTPs facing trial for offences under Section 364A, 394, 397 IPC etc., i.e. offences not covered under the Exclusion Clause. The Court was dealing with two bail applications in two separate cases, both of which involved allegations of offences relating to robbery and dacoity. The bail applicants pointed out that presently, even UTPs facing murder allegations are eligible for interim bail if they have been in jail for at least two years and are not involved in any other case.
If those facing murder charges, which is punishable with death or life imprisonment, are eligible for interim bail, then those facing dacoity, robbery and kidnapping charges should be entitled to such benefit, it was argued. "In Arshad V. State of Delhi, Court denied interim bail to the petitioner therein on the ground that the offence under Section 394 IPC is excluded from the ambit of the HPC guidelines issued in the year 2020.
Taking cognizance of the same, the Court deemed it appropriate to place the matter before the HPC to issue clarifications for the guidance of Benches dealing with applications for grant of interim bail to UTPs facing trial for offences under Sections 364A, 394 and 397, IPC, and other related provision.
In 2020, the HPC had specifically mentioned that its guidelines for interim bail should not be extended to persons who are facing trial for offences of dacoity, robbery and kidnapping for ransom etc., the Court was informed by the State.
However, the Bench pointed out that even in 2021, the Exclusion Clause does not include these offences.
"There is nothing to indicate that decisions taken by the High Powered Committee in the year 2021 are in continuation of the decisions taken by the High Powered Committee in the year 2020", the Court added, while referring the matter to the HPC for clarification.
"In order to avoid further conflicting orders, this Court deems it appropriate to place the matter before the High Powered Committee to issue appropriate clarifications for the guidance of Benches dealing with application for grant of interim bail to Under Trials facing trial for offences under Section 364A, 394, 397 IPC etc.", the order stated.