HC fixes timeline for hearing bail pleas under SC/ST Act

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Allahabad, Jan 13 (PTI) In a significant order, the Allahabad High Court has directed that bail pleas under the SC/ST Act have to be placed before the court seven days after a notice is served to the government advocate.

Noting that bail applications should be processed expeditiously and placed before the court for hearing in a reasonable and definite time frame, a single bench of Justice Ajay Bhanot gave a slew of direction on the agency and mode for service of notice on bail pleas under the Act as well as the timeline to be followed.

Section 15 (A) (3) and (5) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 provide that a victim or his dependent shall have the right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any court proceeding under this Act.

'While the rights of the victim as contemplated under the statute have to be upheld at all times, service of notice of bail application/appeal cannot be unduly delayed by the State, nor can the victim cause indefinite deferment of the hearing of the bail application,' the court said on Monday.

The court observed that the process of law cannot move at a bullock cart pace in the age of information technology and directed the state government to ensure that requisite infrastructure and trained personnel in the high court, as well as in police stations, are available to process the traffic of notices by e-mail.

Going through the various provisions of the Act, the court said that it is the duty of the State to serve the notice of bail to the victim.

It was brought to the notice of the court that the bail pleas of the accused are being 'unduly delayed' on the pretext of either non-service of a notice to the victim or the grounds of non-appearance.

Directing that the bail application be placed before the court after seven days of the notice, the court observed that during this period the police authorities shall ensure that appropriate instructions are available with the government advocates to assist the court during the hearing of the bail pleas.

The direction was passed by the court while hearing a bail application filed by Ajeet Chaudhary, an accused under the SC/ST Act. He was granted bail by the court on the grounds that the co-accused in the case had already been granted bail by the court.

The court said that the notice of the 'bail application/ bail appeal under the Act shall be served upon the Government Advocate before 12:00 PM of any working day'.

'The state government shall ensure that service of notice of the bail application/ bail appeal is effected upon the victim not later than 96 hours after the receipt of the said notice. The victim will be entitled to 72 hours after the receipt of notice of bail,' it said.

'Save in exceptional circumstances which are accepted by the Court, the bail application/ bail appeal under the Act shall be placed before the court immediately after the expiry of 168 hours/7 days from the time of service of notice upon the government advocate,' the court held.

In the event of service of notice of bail plea on government advocate by e-mail, the bail application in such cases shall be placed before the Court in 144 hours or six days, the court said.

The option of e-filing of notice of bail pleas under the Act 'shall be made effective w.e.f. 01.05.2021,' the court order said. PTI CORR RAJ RT