Name of the case: Hussainara Khatoon and other v. Home Secretary, State of
Court: Supreme Court of India.
Bench (Judges): Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Justice R.S. Pathak and Justice A.D.
Koshal. (3 judge Bench also called Division Bench).
Petitioner: Hussainara Khatoon & ors.
Respondent: Home Secretary, State of Bihar.
Citation: 1979 AIR 1369, 1979 SCR (3) 532.
Background of the case:
This case is the landmark case in the rights related to prisoner's trials. In
the year 1977, a national police commission was organized and on making of that
report, one of the member of the committee Sir R.F. Rustum visited Bihar jail.
During the survey of the jails, he Visited Muzzafarpur and Patna jails.
He found that there are many prisoners in the jail without proper trails.
According to him there are many accused who have almost lived more than the
punishment which would have been awarded by the court if found Guilty. The
report was latter Published in the Indian Express news paper and then one of the
lawyer's of Supreme Court named Pushpa Kapila Hingorani, saw the report and
filled a PIL in the name of one of the prisoners named Hussainara Khatoon.
Facts of the Case:
On the basis of the news report that several under trails, including women and
children were in the prison of Bihar awaiting their trails for years. A PIL for
habeas corpus was filed by the Lawyer Pushpa Kapila Hingorani. The period of
Imprisonment already undergone by many of them was more than the maximum
sentence Imposable on Conviction.
In some of the cases the trail had not begun while in the case of some others
the investigations were yet to be completed despite the lapse of several years.
Behind the long Incarcerations, the convicts were unable to arrange for their
defence and to afford their bail- A bail bond with surities. Expressing Shock at
such alarming disclosures, the Supreme Court in the absence of appearance by the
respondent State passed interim orders.
Statute and Provisions discussed:
- Constitution of India- Article 21- under trails, Right to life - Right
to a speedy trial.
- Constitution of India- Article 39A- Right to free legal aid.
- Criminal procedure code- Sec- 309, Power to Postpone or adjourn
- Whether Right to speedy is a part of Article 21
- Article 39-A, not a part of Fundamental Right, must be implemented.
As per the Petitioner, The right to Speedy trails is a part of Fundamental Right
and it has been averred in the counter-affidavit to the direction of the court
that many under- trail prisoners, confirmed in the Patna central jail and the
Muzzafarpur central jail. The prisoners have been presented before the
magistrate prior to that police has remanded for the judicial custody several
times which is not fair and reasonable.
The Supreme Court Issued an order to the State of Bihar to make a report on the
under trails prisoners.
As per the Respondent, The order issued by the Supreme Court was not taken into
consideration by the State of Bihar and no one appeared on behalf of, the State
Held by: Justice P.N. Bhagwati,
In the case of Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar
February 1979, the court held that it is a crying shame on the Judicial System
that keeps men, women and children behind bars without the commencement of
trail. The court has given a fair opportunity to the respondent to appear before
the court but they have failed to do so. The court finds the Newspaper cuttings
presented in the court to be valid evidence and hence grant bail to the
prisoners whose name are mentioned in the petition, along with personal
The Supreme Court while delivering the Judgement found that the system of bail
is getting inconsistent with time.
- The judges of the Supreme Court observed that the major reason of poor
being deprived of Justice is the highly unsatisfactory Bail system. The
system suffers from a property oriented approach which seems to proceed on
the erroneous assumption that the risk of monetary loss is the only
deterrent against fleeing from justice
- The Supreme Court even advised the parliament to re-consider the system
of BAIL, so that the nameless poor are not deprived of Justice.
- The Court in this Case stated that an Accused can be given Bail on the
basis of personal bonds, but there is certain condition which needs to be
checked, while giving an accused bail on the personal bond.
- The Court finds that Article- 21, which is Right to Life, is a broader
concept and the Right to Speedy Trail comes under the broad sweep and
content of the Article 21. The same has been interpreted in the case of
Maneka Gandhi V. Union of India.
- It is the Travesty of Justice that poor, because of the bail procedures,
it is of their meagre means and they have to suffer long in year in pre-
trail detention, thus it is implicit that the Judicial system should be
Transformed and there should be more courts and there should be judges in
the court by the process of the State.
The court while delivering the Judgement in this case gave the reason that it is
travesty of justice and a crying shame on the judicial system. The nameless poor
who are in prison, denied the fundamental rights and basic facilities. It is
already stated in the previous cases that denial of trails, constitute denial of
The major reason while delivering the judgment, that judges quoted that every
human has the right to access justice and fundamental rights. The poor don't
seek justice as they are merely afraid of the financial loses, and had to remain
in the prison for the time which may be the maximum for the offence which they
would have committed.
The judgment delivered by Supreme Court is of great importance. The judges even
advised the parliament that it is the high time to make amendments in the
process of Bail and think that monetary loss is not the only loss to one person
fleeing from Justice. Still due to lack of speedy trails and judges, the jails
are filled with under trail prisoners.
Two out of Three inmates in the jail are under trail prisoners. There is
completely denial of justice and fundamental rights. My observation to this
judgment made me learn about the human rights of the under trail prisoners
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