Recently the Indian public has observed with interest the criminal proceedings that followed the arrest of Aryan Khan, son of Shah Rukh Khan. When the Bombay High Court finally granted bail to Aryan, millions of Indians learnt that grant of bail by a court does not automatically entitle the accused to an immediate release, unless the bail order is deposited in a physical letterbox installed outside the Arthur Road prison.
The box is opened four times a day and Khan’s lawyers missed the last deadline because of which his son had to spend an extra night in jail. People were astonished to learn that a “bail box” can stand between jail and the freedom of an Indian citizen.
- Justice DY Chandrachud, who heads the e-Committee of the Supreme Court, commented at a public event that the delay in communicating bail orders has to be addressed on a war footing.
- In this regard, the Supreme court judges recently had taken suo moto cognisance of the issue of nonrelease of prisoners after grant of bail and directed the creation of FASTER (Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records) System, which would transmit e-authenticated copies of the interim orders, stay orders, bail orders and record of proceedings to the duty holders.
- The court was entirely silent on the fact that the Phase II document for the e-courts project, published in 2014, had announced an ambitious but unfulfilled plan to allow for the transmission of information between key institutions in the criminal justice system.
- The “bail-jail” connectivity issue in this case is but a symptom of a much deeper problem with the structure, management and accountability of the e-Committee, which is responsible for steering the e-courts project.
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