While hearing a case, the Allahabad High Court emphasised that bail applications should be processed expeditiously and placed before Court in a reasonable and definite time frame. The Court defined timelines within which bail applications made by people accused under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, should be listed before Court.
The directions also cover the State’s duty to serve notice of bail proceedings to the victim within a time limit. It was also clarified that a bail application should be listed for hearing within a week of the government receiving notice.
The order states that if notice is served through email, the bail application should be placed before the Court within 144 hours/6 days. The Court added that the process of serving e-notices should be made effective by 01.05.2021.
Hon’ble Justice Ajay Bhanot was compelled to pass the order because of some provisions of the SC/ST Act, which stated that the victim should be notified if the accused initiates the process of securing bail. There are concerns about the process of adequate service of the notice.
The new rules, coupled with the SC/ST Act provisions, law down specific procedures like intimating Government Advocate two days in advance before the application is placed before the Court for hearing.
Further, the Hon’ble Court stated that rights of the victim must be upheld, but the State cannot delay the notice of appeal/ bail application, and the victim also cannot delay the hearing of the application/appeal.
Issues before the Court:-
- What is the mode of service of notice of appeal/ bail upon the victim under SC/ST Act?
- What is the time period for maturation of bail appeal/application before the High Court, which implements the mandate of SC/ST Act but adheres to constitutional liberties?
Directions issued by the Hon’ble Allahabad High Court:-
Hon’ble Justice Bhanot issued the following procedural directions, which should be strictly complied with when bail application is moved under the SC/ST Act:-
- Notice of bail appeal/application under SC/ST Act should be served upon the Government’s Lawyer before 12 PM on any working day.
- The State Government should make sure that the victim is notified about the bail application within 96 hours.
- The victim will get 72 hours after receipt of notice of bail application.
- Except in rare circumstances accepted by the Court, bail application under the act should be placed before the Court after the expiry of 7 days/ 168 hours from the time the notice is served upon Government Advocate.
- The State shall submit the report of notice of bail application showing compliance of Section 15(3) of SC/ST Act.
- In case counsel for the applicant did not move a bail application before Court within seven days of service of notice, the applicant(or his counsel) shall give 96 hours of notice to Government Advocate when such application will be moved. After that, the State will inform the victim.
- During these seven days, the police should ensure that the government advocate has appropriate instructions to assist the Court during the hearing.
- The SP/DCP/SSP will be the nodal officer and supervise the staff tasked with the duty of serving notice to the victim and providing instruction to the government advocate.
Bench opinion on e-notice of bail applications/ proceedings under SC/ST Act:-
The Bench opined that the law process cannot be so slow in the age of information technology and that the institutions should use technology to help the people.
After taking note of the fact that the Government Advocate’s office does not have the required infrastructure to process and accept e-notices of bail applications, the Bench issued the following directions:-
- The State government should provide trained personnel and infrastructure to the office of government advocate and police stations to process e-notices. If the notice of application served by email is accurate, it would be deemed satisfactory.
- The State, after receiving the notice of bail by email from the applicant, should make sure that the victim is intimated within 72 hours and the bail application should be placed before the Court within six days.
- The option of e-filing of the notice shall be made effective from 01.05.2021.
State Level Committee to implement the order of the Court:-
The Court directed the DGP to form a State Level Committee to review the working of Court directions and streamline the procedure, study the possibility of further reducing the period of notice, and take action against officers who violate the Court’s directions.
The Committee will submit a yearly report to the State Government and will help the government to make appropriate schemes so that victims under SC/ST Act get access to justice.