Delhi HC: Prisons Are For Punishing Convicts, Not For Detaining Undertrials In Order To ‘Send Message To Society’


A Delhi High Court order granted bail to a person accused of burning a shop during the Delhi riots. The court held that ‘sending a message to society’ can’t be the basis for denying bail. In this view, only if the court is convinced that further investigation will be unfruitful.

Here are components of the story:

  • The single Bench of Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani said that the purpose of prison is to punish convicts not for detaining under trials to deter crimes.
  • In the order, the court said, “The remit of the court is to dispense justice in accordance with the law, not to send messages to society. It is this sentiment, whereby the State demands that undertrials be kept in prison inordinately without any purpose, that leads to overcrowding of jails; and leaves undertrials with the inevitable impression that they are being punished even before trial and therefore being treated unfairly by the system. If at the end of a protracted trial, the prosecution is unable to bring home guilt, the State cannot give back to the accused years of valuable life lost in prison. On the other hand, an accused would be of course be made to undergo his sentence after it has been awarded, after trial.”
  • Senior Advocate Rebecca M John, who appeared for the applicant, Mohd. Shahnawaz reiterated that the statement given by the State does not in any manner identify or connect the applicant to the offenses alleged.
  • Appearing for State, Additional Public Prosecutor submitted that the accused was identified by the complainant, Constable Vikas, as well as the CCTV footage from outside Rajdhani School.
  • After hearing the litigation, the court refused to rely upon the statement of Constable Vikas, who claimed to be the eye witness. It reiterated that when the accused was allegedly burning the complainant’s shop, the complainant tried calling the police but to no avail.

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