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The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958

The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 was enacted with a purpose to grant immunity to certain offenders when the court of justice deems fit. Probation shall be given to offenders on ground of good behaviour, offender’s age being less than 21 years and any other reasonable ground as the court deems fit. The Act after its enactment was not enforced at once but is supposed to be ratified by different states after notifying in the official gazette as per sub clause (3) of section 1.

As per the Act the court shall release offenders on three grounds i.e. after due admonition, good conduct and release of offenders who are below age of 21 years.

The court shall only release offenders after proper admonition as mandated under section 3 of the Act. As per section 3 when a person is found guilty for offences committed under sections 379, 380, 381, 404, 420 of Indian Penal Code or where a person is sentenced to imprisonment for not more than two years, or fine, or both under Indian Penal Code or any other law and such person has no previous proved criminal record the court instead of sentencing such person shall release him after due admonition.

The Act also empowers courts to release persons if it deems fit, on probation of good conduct. The court shall release a person on good conduct when person accused of an offence has committed an offence other than those punishable with death or life imprisonment, such person shall be released on his entering a bond, which may be with or without sureties. The court may lay certain observations for the person being released. The conditions are that offender shall make himself present when called upon, offender shall maintain peace and good behaviour. The court shall not grant probation unless it is of opinion that offender and his surety has permanent place of residence and occupation within jurisdiction of the court. Sureties shall be guided as per provisions of Criminal Procedure Code.

The Act under section 13 requires necessary appointment of probation officer by state who shall be any person fit to act as probation officer in the opinion of the court. The Probation officer shall give probation report under section 4 of the Act when a person is being released on good conduct. The Probation officer shall always function under authority of district magistrate.  Once a person is released on probation of good conduct he shall remain under supervision of probation officer for a period not less than one year.

The Probation officer shall be an officer of the court and his functions shall be to enquire, supervise, submit report of the offenders and any other function specified under section 14 of the Act.

Supreme Court in Ram Singh vs State of Haryana (1971) 3 SCC 914, held that sections 4 and 6 of the Act lays down the procedures requiring the Court to call for a report from the probation officer and consider it which shall be mandatory as per provisions of section 4 sub clause (1) of the Act.

Court if it deems fit may order the offender to pay compensation to the victim or his kin’s. The compensation paid shall always be reasonable and be paid in accordance with provisions of Criminal Procedure Code.

The act restricts imprisonment on persons below 21 years of age when such person has committed an offence punishable other than with life imprisonment. The court shall look into the nature of offence committed and shall pass an order only if satisfied that it would not be appropriate to deal under section 3 and 4 of the Act. The court shall only act after receiving report from probation officer. Report given by probation officer shall be confidential in nature.

The Probation officer shall supervise the activities of offender for a mandatory period of one year within which if the probation officer is of opinion that conditions of probation for offender should be changed he shall communicate the same to magistrate. Here the variation shall be made only with respect to bond after the surety and the offender is heard. Person shall be released from supervision once Probation officer gives a report in favour of an offender.

Where an offender fails to observe conditions of bond the court may issue an arrest warrant, summon him and his surety, sentence him for original offence, impose penalty not exceeding fifty rupees.

The state government shall have power to make rules.  All actions in good faith shall be protected under the provisions of the Act.

by Vibhuti Nakta.