Denying bail to elderly amounts to cruelty: Punjab and Haryana HC
Punjab and Haryana HC Grants relief to 80-year-old Ludhiana man accused in a case of cheating and forgery
Chandigarh : An elderly person cannot be meted out harsh treatment (of putting in jail) to give an example to society as it would amount to cruelty, the Punjab and Haryana high court said.
The high court bench of justice Anoop Chitkara granted anticipatory bail to 80-year-old Ludhiana man, accused in a case of cheating and forgery registered in February 2022.
“Mere existence in confinement seems more challenging than living without special arrangements and the psychological support of family members for such persons. Thus, would it be justifiable to deny bail to a centenarian, nonagenarian, or octogenarian? It can have just one answer: A thunderous no anywhere globally,” the court said.
The bench, however, maintained that some exceptions can be carved out. “The only exceptions are extreme perversity, highly heinous crimes, mass slaughters, or recidivists who refuse to mend their ways to blend with the community without disrupting the social order,” it added.
In the case in hand, the argument for anticipatory bail was that he was a first-time offender and due to old age, he has developed several health problems.
“Denying bail to people over a particular age is hazardous and there is a need to be sensitised about the sufferings associated with old age, realising that sending these older people to jails or prisons serves no purpose whatsoever,” the bench said, taking note of these special circumstances.
The court quoted the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data and said that as per the latest World Development Indicators, the life expectancy at birth for an Indian resident averages 69.887 years. Prison Statistics India 2020, compiled by the NCRB, reveals that a few states provide special treatment or facilities for elderly prisoners, it said, asserting that the purpose of sentencing is two-fold: deterrence and retribution; and is intended to send a strong message to the people not to violate the law enacted, simultaneously consoling and assuring the victims of the justice system put in place by the and preventing the takeover of law into their own hands.
“However, this entire exercise loses its purpose when such an elderly person is involved. Reformation to re-enter society as an objective of prisons becomes futile as the person is on his last leg of life,” it said.
The court, however, made it clear that this order would not, in any manner, limit or restrict the rights of the police or the investigating agency from probe. It imposed certain conditions, including that he would join the probe within seven days and give details of his assets and bank accounts etc to the police. The court also made it clear that in case conditions imposed are violated by the senior citizen, the police could move an application for cancellation of the bail.