In a significant move towards ensuring justice for prisoners, the Allahabad High Court recently emphasized the fundamental right of every prisoner to file a bail application without delay. This landmark decision, delivered by Justice Ajay Bhanot, shed light on the plight of underprivileged individuals, highlighting the challenges they face in accessing legal assistance and securing their rights within the judicial system.
The case in question revolved around the granting of bail to Anil Gaur, also known as Sonu, who had been imprisoned since December 6, 2017, on charges of homicide. The court took note of the applicant’s financial vulnerability and social isolation, which had prevented him from approaching the court in a timely manner. Importantly, it was revealed that the applicant had not been named in the First Information Report (FIR) and that the evidence against him was purely circumstantial, lacking any direct incriminating proof or motive for the alleged crime.
Justice Bhanot’s insightful remarks during the ruling underscored the systemic issues underlying the denial of justice for the economically disadvantaged. He stated, “The failure of justice in these cases was occasioned by poverty, social exclusion, legal illiteracy, impersonal administration, and denial of legal aid. Exactions of poverty are more severe than punishments in law.” This poignant observation captures the harsh reality faced by many individuals who find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty and legal helplessness.
Highlighting the constitutional mandate for justice and freedom, the court emphasized that injustice is akin to the birthmark of a slave nation, while justice remains the birthright of a free people. The judgment emphasized the duty of the courts to ensure that prisoners, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds, have unhindered access to legal aid and fair representation during legal proceedings.
Furthermore, the court acknowledged the prevalent issue of delayed bail applications due to the lack of legal assistance available to prisoners. It underscored the pivotal role of the judiciary in safeguarding the rights of prisoners, stressing that courts cannot remain, passive observers, when legal aid is denied to individuals involved in legal proceedings.
Crucially, the applicant’s counsel highlighted the applicant’s statutory right to legal aid under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, emphasizing the fundamental nature of this right. The court’s decision, delivered on September 12, 2023, brought attention to the prolonged delays in the applicant’s pursuit of justice, with the bail application being filed before the trial court in 2019 and before the High Court in 2022, a delay of several years.
Ultimately, the judgment from the Allahabad High Court serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of safeguarding the fundamental rights of all individuals, especially those who are economically vulnerable and lack access to legal resources. It underscores the need for proactive measures to ensure equitable access to justice for all, irrespective of social or economic status. The ruling sets a precedent for upholding the dignity and rights of prisoners, paving the way for a more just and inclusive legal system.