Context: In Satender Kumar Antil v. Central Bureau of Investigation (2022), the Supreme Court expressed its unhappiness with the current state of India’s criminal justice system.
- The court said there was scant regard for the violation of basic human rights.
- It noted that indiscriminate arrests are indicative of a colonial mindset and create the impression of India being a “police state”.
- The essence of the court’s charge was that law-enforcement agencies make far too many arrests in violation of basic human rights.
- Arrest and confinement to police custody or judicial custody often smacks of vindictiveness.
- An average police officer invariably believes that it is only in the rigour of custody that a suspect will cough out the truth. This is unfortunate.
- It is distressing that the practice of arresting suspects at the drop of a hat remains the style of policing in our country.
- The Supreme Court also drew attention to the problem of overcrowding of prisons, which has attendant issues such as corruption, crime and hygiene within prisons.
- An overwhelming majority of the inmates are undertrials.
The Court’s role
- The court noted that need for a cultural change at all levels in the police has never been felt more than now.
- That bail is the rule and jail the exception has been reiterated in several judicial and other forums.
- This has been violated by the police in cases where they enjoy discretion as well as by the lower courts, some of which are downright rude to those arraigned before them.
- The Supreme Court’s latest order should awaken their conscience and make them understand that when they grant bail, they are not doling out charity but implementing the dictates of law.
The Satender Kumar case to the Bail Act of the U.K.
- The apex court’s reference in the Satender Kumar case to the Bail Act of the U.K. is appropriate.
- The essence of that law is that arrests should be rare, and bail provisions should be uncomplicated even to the unlettered citizen.
- There is a provision for electronic surveillance of those released on bail. This is something novel, but practicable, at least in urban India.
- The court’s recommendation that India should consider a similar enactment is welcome.
- There is a need for the agencies must be civilised towards both crime suspects and convicts
- Judges sometimes go into the nitty-gritty of an ongoing investigation, which is undesirable if police action has to be balanced.
- Mindset needs to change, which cannot happen unless the political and bureaucratic leadership are convinced of the role of ethics, in shaping and administering the criminal justice system.
Source: The Hindu