Delhi High Court: Undertrial prisoners can’t be detained in custody for an indefinite period

Dec29,2022 #Delhi High Court
Prison Arrest Jail law insider

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Published on: 29 December 2022 at 16:10 IST

Delhi High Court single-judge bench of Justice Amit Mahajan While hearing a bail plea of a man incarcerated for two years in a cheating case, held that in cases where speedy trial does not seem like a possibility, “Undertrial prisoners cannot be detained in custody for an indefinite period”.

Delhi High Court made a important observation in its December 26 judgment that the maximum punishment for offences alleged against the accused was seven years and that the “Object of jail is to secure the appearance of the accused persons during the trial”.

High Court added that the accused had two minor children, aged six years and eleven months, and held that the prosecution’s apprehension that the accused will abscond or is a flight risk was “only a bald assertion,”.

“further incarceration would cause deprivation of his right to legal defence”. The object of jail is neither “punitive nor preventive” and the deprivation of liberty is considered a punishment, it further stated.

“The applicant cannot be made to spend the entire period of trial in custody specially when the trial is likely to take considerable time. It is also significant that the co-accused persons, who had a similar role, have already been admitted on bail,”.

High Court said, “The state has not challenged the orders granting bail to the co-accused persons. Once the majority of the co-accused are out on bail, it cannot be argued that it is only the applicant against whom there is an apprehension that he will tamper with the evidence and influence the witnesses,”.

The accused along with several others was arrested on charges of cheating and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code as well as cheating by personation by using a computer resource under the Information Technology Act.

The FIR alleged that the complainant had been dishonestly induced to deposit Rs 39 lakh in the bank account provided by the accused persons for “receiving the insurance policy bonus amount and the insurance gratuity value on the lapsed insurance policies from 2013 onwards”

As per the complainant, a group of people had called him from different mobile phone numbers claiming to be senior officials of the insurance regulatory body, the court noted. They told him that the unclaimed insurance amount could be released if he deposited Rs 80 lakh.

Petitioner allegedly deposited the money between 2016 and 2018. In June 2020, he was informed that a sum of Rs 1.47 crore had matured and that the file was pending with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Income Tax Department. Petitioner then induced to deposit ₹39 lakh in the bank accounts provided by the accused persons, the judgment notes.

It was claimed that the accused had joined the other accused persons in an insurance bonus scam and that they had created fake email IDs and cheated innocent people on the pretext of helping them receive huge insurance policy bonuses, the court noted.

The accused was allegedly the main caller who induced the complainant and impersonated a “senior director of the income tax department and the ministry”. His co-accused were granted bail earlier this year.

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