The Supreme Court on Thursday said that convicts who have spent 10 years in jail, and their appeal has not yet been heard, should be granted bail unless there are any compelling reasons to deny this, while remission should be considered for those who have completed 14 years in prison.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and A.S. Oka said the court is of view that those persons who have completed 10 years of their sentence, and their appeal would not be heard soon, and if there are no extenuating circumstances, such prisoners should be enlarged on bail.

Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, appointed as amicus curiae, informed the top court that affidavits were filed, as per its earlier orders to the six high courts to conduct the exercise of identifying life sentence convicts.

The top court said firstly, the convicts who have undergone more than 10 years imprisonment, unless there are reasons to refuse bail, be granted bail.

It further emphasised on identification of cases where convicts have completed 14 years of custody, then their case can be referred to the government for considering premature release.

The bench said the premature release issue should be decided within a fixed time, irrespective of whether appeals are pending or not.

Agarwal, analysing the HCs data, submitted that there are 5,740 cases appeals by accused in custody, which includes division bench appeals and single bench appeals.

After hearing the submissions, the bench said the authorities concerned should undertake the exercise on urgent basis and also need to keep in mind the objective of decluttering jails where convicts are in custody, without hearing of the appeals.

The top court gave four months to various high courts and state legal services committees to identify the cases and scheduled the matter for further hearing in January next year.

The top court was hearing a batch of petitions of life convicts in jail whose appeals are pending before various HCs.

The top court was informed that in Bihar, there are 268 convicts, whose cases are being considered for a premature release. And, the Allahabad High Court has the highest pendency of appeals, with 385 convicts having undergone more than 14 years of custody.