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Case Summary on Hussainara Khatoon v/s Home Secretary, State of Bihar. 1979

Name of the case: Hussainara Khatoon and other v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar.
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 proceeding.
  1. Whether Right to speedy is a part of Article 21
  2. 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 of Bihar.

Held by: Justice P.N. Bhagwati,
In the case of Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, 19th 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 sureties.

Major Finding:
The Supreme Court while delivering the Judgement found that the system of bail is getting inconsistent with time.
  1. 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
  2. The Supreme Court even advised the parliament to re-consider the system of BAIL, so that the nameless poor are not deprived of Justice.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Ratio Decideni:
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 justice.

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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