The Gujarat High Court has taken a significant step towards ensuring justice and accountability in the state’s penal system. In a recent ruling, a division bench of the Gujarat High Court comprising Justice AS Supehia and Justice MR Mengdey ordered the state government to pay ₹1 lakh in compensation to a 27-year-old convict, Chandanji Thakor. What makes this case particularly noteworthy is that Thakor had secured bail in 2020 but continued to languish in jail for an additional three years due to the sheer negligence of prison authorities.
Thakor’s ordeal began when he was serving a life sentence in connection with a murder case. However, his life took a turn when his sentence was suspended on September 29, 2020. The High Court registry promptly informed the jail authorities about the bail order, which should have led to Thakor’s release. Unfortunately, this crucial information did not translate into action due to a shocking reason – the prison authorities claimed that they were unable to open the attachment to an email that contained the bail order. Their justification for this negligence was the COVID-19 pandemic, which supposedly disrupted their ability to access and process emails effectively.
The Court, however, did not accept this excuse as valid, highlighting that the email had also been sent to the District Sessions Court. This oversight raised serious questions about the accountability and efficiency of the penal system. The Court aptly described the case as an “eye-opener” and sought to rectify the injustice suffered by Thakor.
In its ruling, the Gujarat High Court unequivocally blamed the negligence of the jail authorities for Thakor’s wrongful incarceration. It emphasized that despite being released on bail, he was forced to endure an extended stay in prison solely because the prison authorities failed to take the necessary steps to implement the Court’s order. This failure of due diligence not only deprived Thakor of his freedom but also caused emotional and psychological distress.
As a measure to prevent such miscarriages of justice in the future, the Court issued several directives. First and foremost, it ordered the Gujarat state government to provide ₹1 lakh in compensation to Thakor as a form of redress for the injustice he suffered. This financial compensation is a significant step towards acknowledging the wrongful detention and its impact on Thakor’s life.
Furthermore, the Court directed all District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs) to collect data on prisoners who have been granted bail but may still be in custody. This proactive approach aims to ensure that similar cases do not go unnoticed or unaddressed in the future. By emphasizing the importance of accountability and the duty of authorities to uphold the rule of law, the Gujarat High Court’s ruling sets a crucial precedent.
Gujarat High Court’s decision to award compensation to Chandanji Thakor and its call for greater oversight and accountability within the penal system are significant steps towards ensuring that justice is not just a concept but a reality for all individuals within the legal framework. The case serves as a reminder of the critical role the judiciary plays in upholding the rights and freedoms of citizens and holding authorities accountable for their actions.