The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted ad-interim bail to 97 prisoners lodged in Agra and Varanasi central jails who have undergone more than 20 years of the total sentence but not been released despite being entitled to premature release under the policy framed by the State government in 2018 (Ramji Dubey vs the State of UP). he plea stated that the prisoners had undergone 20 years of the sentence and are entitled to premature release as per the State government's policy of 2018.
Anticipatory bail is the bail where an individual can seek or request to get bail in anticipation or in expectation of being named or accused of having committed a non-bailable offence, whereas when the court grants a bail on some condition for a specified period of time it is called as Interim Bail.
The Bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari was hearing two petitions filed through advocate Rishi Malhotra stating that not releasing the prisoners in violation of the 2018 policy was akin to subjecting the prisoners to "illegal detention."
The top court issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government while releasing the prisoners on bail.
"Issue notice returnable in three weeks. Since the petitioners have been in jail for over 20 years, they shall be released on ad interim bail subject to the terms and conditions to be imposed by the trial court to its satisfaction," the order said.
The petitioners contended that as per the State government's policy of 2018 framed under Article 161 of the Constitution, the petitioners are entitled to be released.
However, the 2018 policy was amended in July 2021. The petitioners contended that the same was done to defeat the rights of convicts like the petitioners.
"In the said amended policy, an attempt has been made to defeat the rights of the convicts by restricting on the ground that only those convicts who have attained the age of 60 years or more would be given the benefit of the policy dated August 1, 2018. Meaning thereby, if a convict though qualifies and becomes entitled to get his case considered for premature release by virtue of the 2018 policy but if he happens to be of age 60 years or below, the said convict would not be given the benefit under the 2018 policy because he happens to be of lesser age as specified in the amendment of the policy dated July 28, 2021," the plea said.
The petitioners, therefore, challenged the amendments made in July 2021 to the 2018 policy.
It was their argument that it is the policy that was in existence at the time of conviction that would be applicable and not the policy which is applicable at the time of consideration for premature release of a convict in this case.
The plea stated that all the petitioners who are convicted and sentenced predominantly to life imprisonment, have already undergone more than the desired period of a sentence as stipulated in the 2018 policy i.e. 16 years actual and 4 years with remission (total 20 years).
In this regard, the plea highlighted an earlier order of the top court dated May 4, 2021, in which similarly placed prisoners were granted bail and directed to be released.