In a recent analysis of bail applications across various High Courts in India, a significant increase in the number of applications has been observed post 2020.
The study (‘High Court Dashboard’), done by DAKSH, a think-tank focused on law, justice system reforms and access to justice looked at the Supreme Court Annual reports from 2015-16 to 2021-2022.
Why This Matters: The report says, “Analysing data from bail cases in high courts is of utmost importance, as it sheds light on the vexing issue of undertrial detention and its impact on the criminal justice system. The Prison Statistics of India 2021 reveal that a staggering 76% of the prison population comprises undertrial prisoners who have yet to be convicted of the crimes they are accused of.”
“A fair and just bail system is essential for upholding the principles of justice and reducing undertrial detention. By analysing bail case data, we can identify potential areas of improvement, such as ensuring timely hearings or streamlining the bail process,” the report adds.
So, under which act were the highest number of bail applications filed? Which High Courts had the highest number of bail applications pending? And for how many days? The Quint delves into the report.
Which Laws Are Invoked Most in Bail Applications?
Several legislations have been mentioned under which a significant number of bail applications were filed. The top 5, according to the High Court Bail Dashboard, are as follows:
1. Arms Act, 1959 often along with Explosive Substances Act, 1908: A total of 7946 bail applications were filed under these acts
2.Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012: The Act saw 6984 bail applications filed under it
3. Abkari Act, 1077 [Kerala]: Kerala's Abkari Act accounted for 3799 bail applications,
4. Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897: A total of 3636 bail applications were filed under this act, likely due to the legal implications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic
5. Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985: This act generated 3476 bail applications
Note: A substantial proportion of regular bail cases, just over 77% to be precise, lacked specific act information, either being categorized as "Other" or leaving the Act field empty.
How Long Do High Courts Take To Dispose Bail Applications?
Analysis of the data reveals variations in the time taken by different High Courts to dispose of regular & anticipatory bail pleas:
- Jammu & Kashmir High Court: The highest median days taken to dispose of regular bail pleas, amounting to 156 days
- Manipur High Court: The highest median days of 93 days to dispose of anticipatory bail pleas
Note: - Anticipatory bail: These are cases where individuals request bail before getting arrested because they anticipate that they will be arrested soon.
- Regular bail : These are cases when individuals who have been arrested and are in police or judicial custody request for bail.
Pendency of Bail Applications: What The Numbers Say
The dataset also provides insights into the duration for which bail cases remain pending. The median pending days for different High Courts are as follows:
Calcutta High Court: Median pending days for regular bail - 2478
Bombay High Court: Median pending days for anticipatory bail - 522
The distribution of pending times further highlights the challenges within the system:
For regular bail applications:
- Approximately 56% of pending cases remained unresolved for over a year
- About 7% of pending cases were pending for more than five years
For anticipatory bail applications:
- Around 48% of pending cases remained unresolved for over a year.
According to the report, “When cases remain pending for this long, there are two possible likelihoods:
• Either the litigant is insufficiently represented, indicating a severe barrier to justice, or
• the case is no longer relevant to parties, yet continues to be counted as active.
Such cases contribute to the 5.05 crore pending cases across District and High Courts in India (as of August 2023) when they may instead be closed and removed.”
What’s the Data on Outcomes of Bail Applications Like?
The dataset sheds light on the disposal of bail applications within High Courts:
- Approximately 15.19% of disposed bail applications were granted
- Around 4.64% of disposed bail applications were rejected
However, the data also reveals that in approximately 80% of disposed cases, the nature of disposal was unclear or not maintained within eCourts data.