By Malik Asad
ISLAMABAD: The government has withdrawn grant of bail for women through a simple surety bond in non-bailable offences by amending the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
As the amended CrPC has been circulated to the lower judiciary, judges have been asked to follow the new criteria for granting bail to women.
Amending section 497, the CrPC (second amendment) Ordinance 2007 had inserted three provisos about grant of bail to women. The provisos had made it mandatory to grant bail to women in any offence except some serious offences and judicial officer were bound to release the accused women on a simple surety bail bond.
The inserted proviso said: “the accused women of such an offence shall be released on bail, as if the offence is bailable, notwithstanding anything contained in Schedule II to this code or any other law for the time being in force.”
Another proviso said: “A woman may not be released if there appears reasonable grounds for believing that she has been guilty of an offence relating to terrorism, financial corruption and murder and such offence is punishable with death or imprisonment for life or imprisonment of 10 years, unless having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, the court directs that she may be released on bail.”
But the parliament in April this year approved a government bill about amendments in section 497 of CrPC, omitting the provisos.
Now the amended CrPC has put unfortunate women again at the mercy of the system.
Barrister Masroor Shah said now women may be detained on minor offences and even in family disputes the grant of bail will not be their due right.
“Earlier they could manage their release on a surety bond but now it will be very difficult to avoid imprisonment.” He said now grant of bail is the sole discretion of the court. “Women have to follow lengthy legal process for bail.”
Dr Farzana Bari, a rights activist, said the new criteria would result in increasing number of female prisoners. According to her, now the police can easily arrest any woman by labeling her a prostitute and put her behind bars until she proves her innocence.
Nayyer Shabbana Kiyani, a representative of Aurat Foundation, said the withdrawal would add to women’s miseries.
But Secretary Law and Justice Masood Chishti said the government has introduced a number of measures for women in the amended CrPC.
“We have fixed duration in detention in jail in pending decisions of different periods.” He said for the protection of women’s rights, the word “any women” had also been inserted in the proviso of section 497 CrPC under which the court may release any person accused of bailable offence.
Ghulam Farooq Awan, adviser to the Prime Minister on Law and Justice, said under the new amendment accused of those offences not punishable with death where the court may sentence up to seven years imprisonment would be released on bail after one-year detention.
For women, he said, the period has been further reduced and they may be released after six months, subject to the court’ direction.
When asked specifically about omitting provisos related to grant of bail to women, Mr Awan replied to “streamline and incorporate new amendments in CrPC” there was a need to omit some provisos from the code.