There were around 150 inmates present for legal rights awareness at Ward no.2 of Rohini Jail on 7thJuly2012. The basic intention of this visit was to make the inmates acquainted with the provisions of Bail and Plea Bargaining under CrPc. The team of IBJ India comprised of Mr. Ajay Verma, Ms. Ratika Mehrotra, Mina Gibi, Raja Bagga and Tushar Mandal. During the awareness drive, the Superintendent of Rohini Jail as well as several Inspectors were also present. As is the norm, the session started by informing the inmates about their various rights, principles of fair trial, etc., and moved on to a discussion wherein we focused on their various concerns.

Mr. Verma enquired if the inmates present had legal representation. There were few who did not, and they were urged to consult the legal aid counsel provided inside jail or to contact Ratika Mehrotra a volunteer lawyer from IBJ India. However he made it clear that they should not take up legal aid lawyers if they already are represented by a private lawyer. A common concern which most inmates face were that though they had been granted bail they could not take aid of the same due to lack of surety. Most of them did not have family or any identity proof. IBJ took recognition of the same and asked for a list of undertrial who were given bail but could not avail.

One inmate enquired whether one should communicate with the Magistrate when presented for the first time, especially when the inmate believes that the record shows incorrect information. Mr. Verma emphasized that the accused should make all efforts to communicate the same and if that does not work, write a letter to the magistrate. The inmates joined in and raised a common concern that they are usually not heard by the magistrate if they complain that they were picked up from the wrong place and thus there needs to be a mandatory provisions regarding the same. Mr. Verma insisted that in the current provision the accused should make an effort to bring the alleged implication on record. Few inmates raised queries and explained facts of their cases which reflected that they should be given bail and only on further probing did they reveal that they had more than ten matters against them.

Team in Discussion with Inmates

Thus it was necessary to explain the basic concept of bail. While talking about bail, special reference was made to Sec 167(2) and 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Sec 436A makes bail a statutory right when half the period of maximum sentence has passed and the trial is still going on, Section 167(2) provides bail to the accused when charge sheet has not been filed within the prescribed time period.  After discussing bail as a statutory right in some cases, we moved on to bail on discretion. Mr. Verma explained the concept of bail and emphasized the mitigating and aggravating factors which the court considers while granting bail.  He also stressed on the importance of client lawyer interaction.  It was explained that unless the lawyer does not discuss the case with the client it is difficult to get bail, as important information is sometimes missed. The team also heard another inmate who had not received any response for 2 months for reduction of bail amount and we asked the legal aid counsel to look in to the matter.

One of the issues faced by few inmates regarding legal aid lawyers taking payment from the inmates was also discussed in details. As it is a grave and serious concern, the team made them aware that they are not to pay the legal aid lawyers as they are already paid by the legal aid authority for representing them, and getting effective legal representation is their fundamental right. Jail Superintendent also advised the inmates that it is exploitation and extortion of the system of legal aid, and they should refrain from giving into the demands of the legal aid lawyers regarding payment for representing their cases. The session was highly interactive as it involved participation from the inmates, especially as they wanted insight into their cases. The success of the drive was apparent as we were not only well received by all present, but were asked to come again, so some more inmates could benefit from such session.

IBJ India Team with the Prison Authorities