Denying bail to aged not justifiable: Punjab and Haryana High Court

Denying bail to aged not justifiable: Punjab and Haryana High Court

Representational photo

Tribune News Service

Saurabh Malik

Chandigarh, August 5

In a judgment liable to change the way the aged in conflict with law are dealt with, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear that it was “hazardous to deny bail to people over a particular age”.

The ruling came after Justice Anoop Chitkara of the High Court took into consideration the fact that life expectancy of an Indian was under 70 and meting out harsh treatments to them for setting an example for society would only tantamount to cruelty.

Jail won’t serve any purpose

There was a need to be sensitised about the sufferings associated with old age, realising that sending older people to jails would serve no purpose whatsoever, for whomsoever and wheresoever. — Justice Anoop Chitkara

Demonstrating extraordinary sensitivity to the plight of the aged “on the last leg of the life”, Justice Chitkara asserted reformation to re-enter society as an objective of incarceration in a prison became futile under the circumstances.

Justice Chitkara’s ruling came in a case where an octogenarian was seeking bail in a murder case. After hearing the state counsel and amicus curiae Edward George Masih, Justice Chitkara asserted that the life expectancy at birth of an Indian resident averaged 69.887 years as per the latest world development indicators.

Justice Chitkara further asserted the purpose of sentencing was two-fold — deterrence and retribution. It was intended to send a strong message to the people not to violate the law enacted by the state. Simultaneously, the intent was to console and assure the victims regarding the justice system put in place by the state and preventing the takeover of law by the people into their own hands.

But the entire exercise lost its purpose when an older person was involved. “Mere existence in confinement seems more challenging, than living without special arrangements and psychological support of family members for such persons. Thus, would it be justifiable to deny bail to a centenarian, nonagenarians or an octogenarian? It can have just one answer: a thunderous no anywhere in the globe”.

Justice Chitkara clarified the only exceptions were in cases of extreme perversity, extremely heinous crime, mass slaughters, or recidivists refusing to mend their ways to blend with the community without disrupting the social order.

Justice Chitkara added there was, as such, a need to be sensitised about the sufferings associated with old age, realising that sending older people to jails would serve no purpose whatsoever, for whomsoever and wheresoever.

Granting bail, Justice Chitkara observed nine persons armed with weapons, including the petitioner carrying a stick, assaulted the victim. The petitioner was of the age where it could safely be assumed that he was in possession of a “lathi” as means to support as opposed to a weapon intended to kill a person.

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