Agra prisoners wait for Supreme Court’s bail order to arrive by post

Convicts have spent 14-20 years in jail despite being juveniles at the time of committing the crime

It has been three days since the Supreme Court granted immediate interim bail to 13 convicts lodged in Agra Central Jail but the inmates are yet to walk free as jail authorities are waiting to receive the order by post. The convicts have spent between 14 and 20 years in prison despite being juveniles at the time of committing the crime.

V.K. Singh, Senior Superintendent of Agra Central Jail said they were waiting for the certified copy of the SC’s order. “We will follow the due process. After the top court’s order, they will surely be released but only after receiving the physical copy of the order,” Mr. Singh told The Hindu. “It has been dispatched and it should reach us any time.” A source in the prison said the order was expected to reach them on Monday

“The SC took only a week to pass the order in favour of the petitioners but it seems it will take another week to get them released from a Central Jail in Uttar Pradesh,” said lawyer Rishi Malhotra, who represented the convicts.

He asked why the orders were being sent by post when the courts had moved online in the pandemic. “Why can’t the jail authorities check the orders online and take necessary action? In the digital age, the cumbersome process of waiting for physical copies could be done away with,” Mr. Malhotra said.

He said the convicts had spent a good part of their lives behind bars because of ignorance and a lack of good legal aid at the trial stage. “The 13 prisoners had not taken the defence of juvenility during the trial stage,” he said. In 2012, the Allahabad High Court directed the Juvenile Justice Board to determine the ages of prisoners, following which 13 were found to be juvenile offenders.

According to the Juvenile Justice Act 2000, the maximum sentence for juvenile offenders is three years in a juvenile correction home.

“On one hand, jail authorities complain that the jails are overpopulated and on the other, they perpetuate red-tapism,” Mr. Malhotra said.

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