New Delhi, June 30: A person seeking bail in a criminal case will be entitled to a copy of the investigating officer’s report regarding his or her antecedents or jail superintendent’s report on his or her behaviour in prison that is filed in response to the bail petition, the Delhi High Court has ruled.

A bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan Monday said sharing of such a report with the accused is a “basic need for access to justice and for rendering justice to the public at large”, The Print reported.

The order was pronounced on a petition filed by Advocate Chirag Madan, who claimed the accused or an undertrial was at the mercy of a judge hearing the bail petition because of the report. According to him, judges often rely on such reports while dismissing or allowing bail applications.

He noted that the accused is denied the opportunity to refute the grounds on which the police or jail authorities oppose bail since he does not get a copy of the report. This was a violation of an accused’s fundamental right to defend and protect his or her life, contended Madan before the court.

“As a general rule, a copy of the report given by the Jail Superintendent as well as the report given by the Investigating Officer should be supplied to the applicant so that accused can properly understand the reasons given therein and defend their case in the Court of law,” the court ordered.

Madan’s personal experience as a lawyer provoked him to file the petition, after he learnt how a report given by Tihar jail authorities in response to a client’s bail petition was false.

“We did not know the contents of the report until the court rejected my client’s bail plea. The judge based his order on the report of jail authorities that alleged my client was involved in a fight inside jail and kept money with him illegally. Apart from this, the report stated he used blades inside the prison,” Madan told ThePrint.

He added that his client denied the allegations when he confronted him with the same. “He accepted the fact of keeping money but the incident was four years old when he was lodged in jail for the first time,” Madan said.

Madan’s lawyer, senior advocate Siddhartha Luthra showed the court several orders, calling for reports from jail superintendents in bail matters. He noted while these reports were relied upon the courts to decide bail, copies of it were not supplied to the accused.

He also pointed to the absence of a uniform policy that could be followed for sharing such reports. Luthra argued the report was a matter of right for the accused. However, it was up to the court on whether a report should be given to the accused or not.

The bench opined that whenever the court is relying upon a report of the Jail Superintendent, which is normally called by the court for a specific purpose on a case-to-case basis, the copy of the same should be given to the accused, except in exceptional cases.

Whenever such a copy is not supplied to the accused, then reasons will be recorded by the court in an order.

The court directed immediate compliance of its order and said a copy of its directions should be sent to the Chief Secretary, Delhi Government; Director General (Prisons); District and Sessions Judge of all the District Courts; Member Secretary, Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) and all the jail authorities.

Luthra told ThePrint, “This order is expected to bring transparency in the legal system, as now the report will be given formally to an accused, which hitherto was taken through other means. It also sets a precedence for other states to follow a similar procedure.”

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