New Delhi: Noting an "alarming and sinister" increase in instances where convicts go underground after getting bail and hold the "criminal justice delivery system to ransom", the Supreme Court has said proceedings should be initiated against persons who give surety in such cases.
The apex court said that courts should not be a "mute spectator" to the attempts by the convicts to circumvent and escape undergoing the sentences awarded to them by disappearing after getting bail and action must be taken in such cases, including dismissal of the appeal.
"It seems to us that it is necessary for the Appellate Court which is confronted with the absence of the convict as well as his counsel, to immediately proceed against the persons who stood surety at the time when the convict was granted bail, as this may lead to his discovery and production in Court.
"If even this exercise fails to locate and bring forth the convict, the Appellate Court is empowered to dismiss the appeal," a bench of justices T S Thakur and Vikramjit Sen said. It said that peace, tranquillity and harmony in society will be reduced to a "chimera" if such convicts can circumvent the consequence of their conviction.
"We are convinced that the interests of society at large are being repeatedly sacrificed for the exaggerated, if not misplaced concern for what is fashionably termed as `human rights? of convicts," it said.
The court said, "We reiterate that there is an alarming and sinister increase in instances where convicts have filed appeals apparently with a view to circumvent and escape undergoing the sentences awarded against them. The routine is to file an appeal, apply and get enlarged on bail or get exempted from surrender, and thereafter wilfully to become untraceable or unresponsive.
"It is the bounden duty cast upon the Judge not merely to ensure that an innocent person is not punished but equally not to become a mute spectator to the spectacle of convict circumventing his conviction," the bench said.
The criminal justice delivery system, the court said "is being held to ransom by convicts who disappeared after getting bail and who have developed the devious and dishonest practice of escaping punishment or sentence by filing appeals, obtaining bail or suspension of sentence and thereafter disappearing beyond the reach of the arms of the law."
The apex court passed the order on an appeal filed by a convict whose plea was dismissed by the Allahabad High Court after he and his counsel failed to appear before it.
The apex court refused to set aside the HC order but agreed to give a hearing on his stand and listed the case for final hearing. It, however, expressed concern on the practice adopted by convict to go underground after getting bail.
"This appeal brings to the fore the rampant manipulation and misuse of the statutory right to appeal by an ever increasing number of convicts who take recourse to this remedy with the objective of defeating the ends of justice by obtaining orders of bail or exemption from surrender, and thereupon escape beyond the reach of the law," the bench said.
"If the court is derelict in doing its duty, the social fabric will be rent asunder and anarchy will rule everywhere. It is, therefore, imperative to put an end to such practice by the expeditious disposal of appeals," it said.