On June 29, the Delhi High Court directed that as a general rule, the accused should receive a copy of the report given by the Jail Superintendent as well as the report given by the Investigating Officer during the bail hearing. It reasoned that this is important so that the accused can properly understand the reasons given therein and defend their case in the court of law. This, according to the court, is a basic need for access to justice and for rendering justice to the public.
A division bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan also directed that whenever such copy is not supplied to the applicant/accused then the Court in the order would record the reasons. The bench ordered that, as far as possible, the report of the Investigating Officer as well as of the Jail Superintendent should be given to the Court in advance. Similarly, copies of these reports should also be given to the accused/applicant in advance so that they can defend their case effectively and efficiently in a court of law.
Background of case
This followed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Chirag Madan seeking direction for supply of status reports, report by the Jail Superintendent and reply filed on behalf of the prosecution at the time hearing bail applications. These, respectively, fall under Sections 437 (When bail may be taken in case of non- bailable offence) 438 (anticipatory bail) and 439 (Special powers of High Court or Court of Session regarding bail) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) before the Metropolitan Magistrates and Sessions Judges to accused/counsel for the accused.
Arguments by parties
Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Siddharth Luthra submitted that in several cases, reports are being called from Jail Superintendents in bail matters. Though the Courts are relying on the same upon, the copies thereof are not being supplied to the accused. Luthra took the court to various annexures and pointed out matters where the bail application was dismissed by relying upon the report given by the Jail Superintendent.
Rahul Mehra, Standing Counsel, for the Government of NCT of Delhi inter-alia submitted that normally, there is no reason for not supplying the copy of the report given by the Jail Superintendent or even the report of the Investigating Officer (I.O.), save and except in exceptional cases, where reasons are recorded in writing in the order. He also pointed out that normally, the report of the Jail Superintendent is given directly to the Court, such report may be regarding the medical condition as pointed out by the accused, or may be on the conduct of the accused, etc.
Why is this important?
Speaking to the Leaflet, senior advocate Indira Jaising said “this order is a step forward in transparency in the criminal justice system. We have the experience of Jail superintendents delaying reports to court just to defeat bail, we also have the phenomenon of Jail superintendents permitting or not permitting hospitalisation for extraneous reason. The courts should go a step further and monitor the performances of jail superintendents and not accept their reports mechanically “