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 offenses are eligible for interim bail (Manish Kumar Manny vs. State).
Pertinently, UTPs facing trial for robbery, kidnapping, dacoity, and allied offenses including those under Sections 364A (kidnapping for ransom, etc.) 394 (causing hurt in committing robbery), 397 (robbery, or dacoity, with an 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 number 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 offenses under Section 364A, 394, 397 IPC, etc., i.e. offenses not covered under the Exclusion Clause. The Court was dealing with two bail applications in two separate cases, both of which involved allegations of offenses 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. The Court also noted that there are contradictory orders passed by the High Court in two different bail applications,
In Arshad vs. State of NCT of Delhi, Court denied interim bail to the petitioner therein on the ground that the offense under Section 394 IPC is excluded from the ambit of the HPC guidelines issued in the year 2020. Whereas, this Court by another order titled as Mohit Sharma v. State, has extended the benefit of the HPC guidelines to an accused undergoing trial for offenses under Sections 302/392/397/411/120B/34 IPC", the Bench observed. 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 offenses under Sections 364A, 394 and 397, IPC, and other related provisions.
In 2020, the HPC had specifically mentioned that its guidelines for interim bail should not be extended to persons who are facing trial for offenses 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 offenses. The court added that there is nothing to indicate that decisions are 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 while referring the matter to the HPC for clarification. The orders stated that 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 offenses under Section 364A, 394, 397 IPC, etc.