Six stringent conditions introduced in 2010 will come into effect only now, with Bombay High Court dismissing a PIL challenging them


Getting bail in Maharashtra will soon get a lot more difficult. More than nine years after they were introduced, six additional “stringent bail conditions” will come into permanent effect only now, with the Bombay High Court dismissing a public interest litigation challenging the new conditions “for want of empirical data”. The stringent conditions were in operation for less than five months in 2010.

A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and SP Tavade, while dismissing the PIL filed by a lawyer and an application filed by a bar association, also vacated the stay granted on these conditions by a different division bench in December 2010. “Till date from January 10, 2013, the petitioner has not placed on record any material in support of the challenge to the notification impugned in the PIL. The petitioner has also not placed on record any empirical data or official record to entertain the grievance or challenge to the notification,” the bench observed while dismissing the PIL.

Another division bench, while hearing the case on January 10, 2013, had observed that the PIL’s contentions were “vague and not good enough to even prima facie hold that the conditions were unreasonable, unworkable or harsh”. The bench had then observed that the petitioner had not produced any “empirical data or official record” and therefore the challenge “cannot be entertained as public interest litigation.” The court gave the petitioner time to produce the “necessary material”.

In an article published on October 13, 2010, Mirror had highlighted how the legal fraternity was critical of the six additional conditions, which were brought into effect by amending the Criminal Manual, 1980. The reason for adding the new conditions was “because of the experience that a large number of accused went absconding after being released on bail”. The new bail conditions will probably affect former media baron Peter Mukerjea if his bail is upheld in the challenge “proposed to be filed” by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Six new conditions for bail

Here are the six additional conditions, imposed via a notification dated July 29, 2010, that will now come into force:

Every accused, before being released on bail, shall submit a list of at least three blood relatives with their detailed residential and workplace addresses, along with documentary proof.

Any change in addresses of the accused or of people who stand surety for the accused, must be notified to the police authorities as well as the relevant court immediately.

In case of offences involving financial transactions, the bail amount shall be fixed based on the amount of money involved in the crime or the case pending before the court. While determining the bail amount, the status of the accused, and his past conduct and antecedents will be considered to ensure that the accused will not jump bail.

Along with every bail application, the accused shall submit copies of at least two of the following documents – passport, pan card, bank passbook, credit card with photograph, ration card, electricity bill, landline telephone bill, voter ID Card issued by the Election Commission of India, property tax register. (There was no Aadhar Card at that time). Concerned police station to conduct physical verification of the residential address and submit a certificate before the concerned court about the same.

Accused to report once a week to the concerned police and once in a month to the concerned court before charge sheet is filed, and once in three months to the police station and to the court after charge sheet is filed.

An accused will not be released on bail again without recording special reasons by the concerned court if the accused is re-arrested after absconding or after a warrant is issued due to nonappearance on summons. If a court grants bail to such an accused again, further stringent conditions will be imposed, such as regular attendance before the concerned police station.

Will hit migrants and poor the hardest, say lawyers

In 2010, when the six additional bail conditions were first introduced, Mirror had asked various lawyers for their views. Here’s what they had said: Amit Desai, senior advocate: “Migrant workers and expats who work in Maharashtra will find it extremely difficult to fulfil these conditions. For example, a person who is required to travel for his job will be required to come back every week to give his attendance at the local police station.”

Ashok Mundargi, senior advocate: “It is fine to ask for details of address change so that the accused can be tracked, but the Supreme Court has gone to the extent of saying that if a person can’t afford the bail amount, he or she can be released on only a personal bond. So imposing conditions like furnishing residential and office addresses of three blood relatives is harsh. The bail amount can never be in proportion to the alleged crime. Bail is only for securing the presence of the accused. What happens in a case where a gullible person has allowed his account to be used for a fraud running into crores but can’t afford to pay even a few thousand rupees for bail?

Rohini Salian, advocate: “I wonder if poor people will be able to furnish these documents. My biggest grouse, however, is that conditions should be stringent when a person is being granted bail after conviction, but not before he or she is found guilty.

Mubin Solkar, advocate: “The new clauses, while good in spirit, could breed more corruption in the system. For example, the condition about authenticity of addresses will make people go back to the police for verification. This may cause unnecessary delays. In any case, an accused should not be made to go to officers who may not be happy that he or she has secured bail.”

courtesy – Mirror