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Court Seeks Clarification on HC's Decision to Extend Interim Bails for Prisoners in Delhi Riots Cases

File photo: Security personnel stand guard near a neighbourhood vandalised by rioters in Northeast Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI)

File photo: Security personnel stand guard near a neighbourhood vandalised by rioters in Northeast Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI)

A High Powered Committee was formed on the order of the Supreme Court in March to lay down guidelines to decongest jails and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

A court here on Monday sought clarification from the Delhi High Court on whether its directions to extended interim bails of undertrial prisoners by 45 days to decongest jails here in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, applied for cases related to the communal violence in north east Delhi in February. The court said the interim bails granted purely on humanitarian grounds for a limited period should not come within the purview of the directions of the High Court of July 13 and July 24 extending by 45 days the interim bails of undertrials, who were already out of jail.

Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Yadav said a specific trend has been noticed in riots case that if the court granted interim bail for a certain period of time, invariably the accused filed applications for its extension on the ground that the High Court has directed to extend the interim bails en bloc from time to time, which presently stood extended till October 31. The trial court said there was doubt as to whether the directions would apply to the cases of riots because the High Powered Committee of the High Court had excluded undertrials in riots cases from those who were applicable for grant of interim bails to decongest prisons in wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

A High Powered Committee was formed on the order of the Supreme Court in March to lay down guidelines to decongest jails and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. "This court has doubt as to whether the directions of the High Court of Delhi passed will apply to the cases of riots or not because the minutes of the meeting on May 18, of the High Powered Committee has been pleased to exclude the following category of undertrial prisoners (UTPs) even if falling in the criteria, thereof should not be considered for interim bail," it said.

It further added that it was expedient and in the interest of justice that clarification be sought from the High Court on this aspect for its guidance. "In my humble opinion, the interim bails granted purely on humanitarian grounds for a limited period should not come within the purview of the directions of the Full Bench of the High Court of Delhi because what can not be granted to an accused directly under the minutes, dated May 18, of the High Powered Committee can not be deemed to be accorded indirectly under the directions of the Full Bench. In view of the scenario, it is expedient and in the interest of justice that clarification may be sought from the High Court on this aspect for the guidance of this court.

"A copy of this order be sent to the Registrar General, High Court of Delhi for his kind perusal and with a request to issue appropriate guideline for the undersigned (sessions court) to follow in the cases of interim bails in the cases of riots by way of clarification as to whether the interim bail granted by the undersigned on humanitarian grounds would be deemed to be extended from time to time in terms of directions of the Full Bench," the court said in its order. The observations came while hearing an application of Suhaib Saifi, arrested in a murder case related to the riots, seeking interim bail for 30 days to appear for his class 10 compartment examinations.

The court dismissed the bail application saying facilities were available in jail to prepare for the examinations. It directed the Jail Superintendent to make available the relevant books and study material to Saifi.

Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control, leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.

first published:September 07, 2020, 21:09 IST