Will Prime Minister Modi keep his word on criminal justice system reform in the country?

Ours is a land of courage, wisdom and sacrifice where there is no room for fear. Every citizen has the fundamental right to express their opinions without any fear in our country.

Illegal arrests and false prosecutions seriously violate human rights. In our society, arrest is a stigma. No one wants to deal with it because it impacts human dignity and reputation in society.

The Supreme Court rightly observed, in Siddharam Satlingappa Metre case, that great ignominy, humiliation and disgrace are attached to the person who is arrested in a case. The arrest carries many serious consequences not only for the accused but for all the family, friends and relations and even for the community.

The court correctly states that most people make no distinction between arrest at a pre-conviction or post-conviction stage. Thus, the police and other law enforcement agencies should exercise their power to arrest people with caution.

There are cases where defendants get bail after spending ten or fifteen years in prison for offenses like NDPS, UAPA, etc. Who will compensate them if they are found guilty of such offences?

In the case of State of Kerala vs Raneef(2011), the Supreme Court observed that bail applications must be decided quickly. “In deciding bail applications, an important factor that should certainly be taken into consideration by the court is the delay in concluding the trial. This often takes many years, and if the accused is denied bail but ultimately acquitted, who will give back so many years of his life spent in custody? Article 21 of the Constitution, which is the most fundamental of all the fundamental rights of our Constitution, is it not violated in such a case? Of course, this is not the only factor, but it is certainly one of the important factors in deciding whether or not to grant bail,” the Supreme Court had observed.

Time and time again, the Supreme Court has reiterated that bail is the rule and jail the exception and that courts must adjudicate bail applications expeditiously. But the situation is quite different at ground level. Courts, especially lower courts, are reluctant to release defendants on bail and bail applications remain pending for months and years despite Supreme Court instructions issued in many cases.