DATE OF JUDGMENT:
Respondent: State NCT of Delhi
The Delhi High Court directed that the custody of an undertrial should not be extended mechanically in view of section 167 of the CrPC. It also noted that the rights of bailees should not be defeated despite the provisions of law.
The accused and his family members were booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code concerning dowry death, criminal breach of trust, cruelty. The accused man in the present case has approached the High Court challenging an order of a Sessions Court which had dismissed his bail plea.
The petitioner was arrested on January 18, 2020 and produced before the magistrate the nest day, when he was remanded to custody.
One of the offences he was charged with was dowry death. This crime carries a maximum period of 90 days of judicial custody.
The custody period of the petitioner should have ended on April 18, 2020.
On April 15, 2020, the Jail Visiting Magistrate extended the custody of the petitioner by 90 days. This direction was considered “without any application of mind and rather unmindful” and the magistrate was stated to have “mechanically” extended the petitioner’s judicial custody till April 29, 2020.
Section 167 of CrPC- It states that he Magistrate may authorise the detention of the accused person, otherwise than in the custody of the police, beyond the period of fifteen days; if he is satisfied that adequate grounds exist for doing so, but no Magistrate shall authorise the detention of the accused person in custody for a total period exceeding, -
(i) ninety days, where the investigation relates to an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years;
(ii) sixty days, where the investigation relates to any other offence, and, on the expiry of the said period of ninety days, or sixty days, as the case may be, the accused person shall be released on bail if he is prepared to and does furnish bail,
The Court has directed that while extending the period of custody of an undertrial, the concerned court should not mechanically extend the period of custody for the maximum prescribed 15 days.
The custody of a person may be extended up to the 60th, 90th or 180th day if the investigation is still ongoing and the charge sheet has been submitted.
The Court also ordered that the undertrial prisoner be produced before the Court on the next day which is as per the case's schedule. He was also asked to be informed of his fundamental right if no charge sheet is filed within the prescribed period.
Court directed that the format of custody warrant shall also include a column which indicates the day on which the right of default bail will accrue to the undertrial. The existing format of the Custody Warrant will also be modified to mention the date of arrest and the duration of police custody. It would also include a column stating the day on which the default bail will accrue to the undertrial.
The Legal services authority was also directed to ensure that the advocates/legal aid posted counsel in criminal courts keep an undertrial informed about his right to seek default bail.
The Court noted that the provisions did not provide an adequate opportunity for an undertrial to seek bail. It was therefore requested that the Registrar General and the Director General of Prisons should step up efforts to ensure that such rights are exercised timely.
The judgment concluded that these directions should be forwarded to all the District and Session Judge judges to ensure that they strictly follow the same. The Supreme Court asked the concerned individuals to submit their response in response to the proposed changes in the criminal justice system, which is under the supervision of the e-committee. The registry was also directed to submit the copy of the order to the DG Prisons as well as Delhi State Legal Services Authority.
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