T Ravi, 47, has spent more than 25% of his life in jail as an undertrial – no trial, no evidence and no conviction. Arrested in 2002 in a murder case in Krishnagiri district, he has spent last 12 years behind the bars as police dragged the case citing difficulty in getting witnesses to testify and the trial court denied him bail saying he doesn’t have a permanent address.
Terming Ravi’s long incarceration as unfortunate, the Madras high court has now ordered his immediate release on bail. The court also directed the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority (TNSLSA) to take a survey of people languishing in jail for long periods and extend them necessary legal assistance.
“Keeping a person in jail as an undertrial for 12 years without evidence, trial and conviction is not fair. It is unreasonable. It is inequitable. It indicates that there are cracks in our criminal justice system,” Justice P Devadas said last week. “Merely because a person has become an accused, he cannot be subjected to cellular servitude. He cannot be stated to have lost his human rights. He cannot be treated as an animal,” the judge said, directing the Krishnagiri sessions court to complete trial in the case within two months.
Ravi was arrested in 2002 by Bagaloor police in Krishnagiri district in connection with a case of murder for gain. Recently, he moved the sessions court for bail. The court refused to release him after police justified the delay saying there was some difficulty in producing witnesses, who hailed from West Bengal, Assam and Rajasthan. Also, Ravi did not have any permanent residence, the court said.
Ravi approached the HC, saying though he was prepared to face the trial there was no sign of its commencement. Also, his co-accused had been released on bail while he alone had been denied the relief by the Krishnagiri court, he said.
Justice Devadas flayed the subordinate court saying the judge failed to take note of the fact that Ravi had been in jail as an undertrial for 12 years, and that non-production of witnesses by the prosecution was not his fault. Pointing out that Ravi had a family, voter identity card and ration card, the judge said he could not be held responsible for the delay in the trial.
Keeping a person in jail for about a dozen years without even informing him whether he was convicted or acquitted is inhuman and violation of his human rights, Justice Devadas said, adding: “Right to speedy trial and speedy justice is a component of Article 21 of the Constitution. But, in this case, there is a delay of 12 years in conducting the trial. It is mainly because of the non-production of witnesses by the prosecution. Ravi cannot be blamed for this. There is complete infraction of Ravi’s fundamental rights.”