2nd February, 2019
National Lawyers’ Campaign
FOR JUDICIAL TRANSPARENCY & REFORMS
Registration No: MH/MUM/1701/2015/GBBSD
304, Hari Chambers, 3rd Floor, 54/68 SBS Marg,
Near Old Custom House, Fort, Mumbai- 400 023
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Hon’ble Shri Justice N.H. Patil,
High Court of Judicature at Bombay,
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR LORDSHIP:
Sub: Emergent need to constitute sufficient number of Benches to hear bail applications of undertrials – regarding.
I address this letter as the president of the National Lawyers’ Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms (NLC), an association of the first generation lawyers who are subjected to discriminatory treatment in the Temples of Justice vis-à-vis the so-called designated lawyers, the kith and kin of sitting and former Judges and large number of lay people who are actively associated with the campaign of NLC, based on my own experience as a lawyer representing poor undertrial prisoners who cannot afford an expensive lawyer. It may not be appropriate to delve into the details of the case which I had occasion to handle in the recent past where an undertrial, a young boy in his twenties, had to remain in jail merely because this Hon’ble Court could not grant an early date to hear his case when such a request was made by my associates by mentioning, without which no case is listed in the visible future. Without meaning any disrespect to the Hon’ble Judges concerned, at least on two occasions when I mentioned before two of them hearing bail applications, I was told that no immediate hearing could be granted because there is nothing special about my case and hundreds are in jail because they are denied an early hearing.
2. Nothing has made me feel so painful, literally disturbing my sleep, than the agony and the scenario where undertrials, many of whom are in their twenties; so too senior citizens, are forced to remain in overcrowded jails because this Hon’ble Court could not list their applications for bail forthwith, for, the Bench assigned to hear bail applications have too many such applications listed before it. Ours is a High Court where one of the Hon’ble Judges felt it appropriate to sit upto 3.00 a.m. to hear civil cases because justice delayed is justice denied.
3. I still remember vividly the Commentaries on the Laws of England, an influential 18th Century treatise on the common law of England by Sir William Blackstone wherein the great jurist has said that except in matters where the capital punishment could be imposed and, therefore, the accused may abscond, bail ought not to be denied; and that bail is a right. Legendary Justice Krishna Iyer too said that bail is a matter of right and denial thereof could be an exception. Blackstone said that the guilt of an accused ought not to be wrung out of him, but has to be proved by other men and means, nemo tenetur se ipsum accusare – no one shall be compelled to bear witness against himself. In this country, even as eminent a lawyer as Shri P. Chidambaram does not dare to take the plea that police custody cannot be sought for custodial interrogation, for, the protection against self-incrimination, which is enshrined in Article 20(2) of the Constitution could be claimed the moment a person is named as an accused and not merely at the trial. Even Shri Chidambaram did not dare to assert his right of protection against custodial interrogation, which is founded on the maxim accusare nemo se debet nisi coram deo, namely, nobody is bound to incriminate himself, and the plea that the case against an accused ought to be proved by other men and means and not by interrogation fearing that that will be taken as an extreme position and may invite the risk of bail being denied.
4. When I mentioned the bail application of a young man in his twenties, who is implicated in an ordinary offence, for emergent listing, my passion for the cause of the undertrial, nay, my pain for innocent people incarcerated in jails, made me urge that all other hearings ought to be put in abeyance till bail applications of undertrials languishing in jails are heard, for, there cannot be a greater cause than the life and personal liberties of citizens.
5. I sought an appointment with the five seniormost Hon’ble Judges of this Hon’ble Court, including Your Lordship, to bring to their notice the need to ensure that bail applications and habeas corpus petitions are listed by the Registry within 24 hours of their institution and heard without mentioning on top priority. It is heartening to note that His Lordship, Hon’ble Shri Justice I. Mahanty gave us, a delegation of NLC, an audience in no loss of time and assured that His Lordship would ensure that habeas corpus petitions, which were then assigned to His Lordship, would be listed within 24 hours. We are waiting for such an audience from Your Lordship and other senior Hon’ble Judges. I am sure the instant letter will receive Your Lordship’s anxious consideration and emergent steps will be taken to ensure that bail applications, especially of the undertrials, and habeas corpus petitions are listed for hearing within 24 hours of their institution and disposed of with utmost dispatch.
Awaiting to hear from Your Lordship,
With most respectful regards,
Mathews J. Nedumpara,
October 18, 2017
- September 29, 2023