India: Delhi HC says undertrial prisoners can’t be detained in custody for an indefinite period

The court says the object of jail is neither 'punitive nor preventive' and that deprivation of liberty is considered a punishment.

While hearing a bail plea of a man incarcerated for two years in a cheating case, the Delhi High Court recently held that in cases where speedy trial does not seem like a possibility, “undertrial prisoners cannot be detained in custody for an indefinite period”.

A single-judge bench of Justice Amit Mahajan in its December 26 judgment observed that the maximum punishment for offences alleged against the accused was seven years and that the “object of jail is to secure the appearance of the accused persons during the trial”. The court further took into consideration that the accused had two minor children, aged six years and eleven months, and held that the prosecution’s apprehension that the accused will abscond or is a flight risk was “only a bald assertion”.