GPS Ankle Monitors for UAPA-Accused on Bail: Too Many Issues to Ignore


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GPS Ankle Monitors for UAPA-Accused on Bail: Too Many Issues to Ignore Blog Image

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Special Court in Jammu granted bail to an accused of terror financing under the condition that he wears a GPS tracker on his anklet.
  • This decision marked the Jammu and Kashmir police as the first in India to utilise a GPS-enabled wearable device for monitoring and recording the movements of an accused released on bail.

 The Purpose Behind Setting Up Bail Conditions

  • Conditions imposed for bail serve a specific purpose, which is to ensure that individuals released on bail do not engage in activities that could compromise the legal process.
  • These conditions are meant to prevent contact with victims or witnesses, manipulation of evidence, and the commission of additional crimes.
  • There could be many conditions, such as staying in a designated geographic area or not leaving the jurisdiction without court permission.
  • The compliance monitoring is crucial to ensure that individuals adhere to the restrictions imposed on them during the period of bail.
  • The focus on compliance is to maintain the integrity of the legal process and protecting the rights of victims and witnesses.

Role of GPS-Tracker in Compliance Monitoring

  • The use of such trackers is assumed to be essential for effective monitoring. This technology is used to verify whether individuals are adhering to geographic restrictions and other conditions.
  • Before granting bail, there is an assumption that accused may attempt to violate conditions, and therefore, tracking their movements becomes a necessary precaution.
  • Bail conditions also assume that GPS-enabled trackers are a reliable and effective means of enforcing compliance.
  • In this case, while the unprecedented nature of the bail condition has resulted in significant reporting, there has been little discussion on the validity and reliability of the technology in use.

The Limitations of GPS-Tracker for Compliance Monitoring and Ramifications for Accused

  • Environmental Limitations of GPS Technology
    • The effectiveness of GPS trackers depends on unobstructed views of the sky and a robust cellular network.
    • Larger cities with better infrastructure are more likely to provide ideal conditions for GPS functioning.
    • However, even under optimal conditions, obstacles such as buildings, foliage, and weather conditions can lead to inaccurate positioning and poor signal quality.
  • Reliability Issues with GPS Trackers
    • GPS trackers may face issues with accuracy in adverse conditions, such as exposure to water or remaining static for an extended period.
    • The dependency on ideal conditions raises concerns about the reliability of GPS tracking technology.
  • Ramifications for Accused
    • GPS trackers are not only inaccurate but also unreliable.
      • In the case of Kevin Jones, where a malfunction in the device led to severe consequences for the accused, despite no fault of his own.
      • Jones was arrested by the police in Michigan (US) for violating conditions of his release on probation because the battery of his “tether”, the GPS-enabled device used to track him, malfunctioned when he was asleep.
    • This example highlights the potential real-world implications of relying on GPS tracking technology.

Challenges Associated with Ankle Monitors

  • Highly Prone to False Alarms
    • The empirical research conducted by the University of Chicago suggests that ankle monitors are highly prone to false alarms due to poor signals.
    • This raises questions about the effectiveness of such technology, even in jurisdictions like the US where GPS tracking has been in use for a long time.
  • Operational Challenges
    • The practical challenges faced by police personnel are tasked with monitoring GPS alerts.
    • The prevalence of false alarms due to poor signals makes it difficult for officials to identify genuine alerts, even in countries with a history of using GPS tracking technology.

Broader Concerns Regarding Technological Tools in Indian Criminal Justice Context

  • Lack of Critical Thinking
    • There is a deficiency in critical thinking within the Indian criminal justice system.
    • All stakeholders, including law enforcement personnel and the judiciary, may not be adequately questioning, or analysing the potential flaws and limitations of technologies like GPS-enabled tracking.
  • Perception of Technology as Error-Free
    • In India, technology whether in the form of forensic evidence or GPS-enabled devices, is perceived as error-free and objective by most stakeholders in the criminal justice system.
    • This perception may contribute to a lack of scepticism or critical evaluation of the technology's reliability.
    • This trust might lead to an overreliance on technology without considering potential drawbacks.

Way Forward

  • Need for a Critical Assessment of the Technology
    • Research and experiences from around the world serve as a cautionary tale regarding the reliance on GPS-enabled tracking.
    • There is a need for a more critical examination of the role of technology within the Indian criminal justice system.
    • This could include questioning assumptions about the infallibility of technological tools and fostering a more nuanced understanding of their limitations.
  • Need for Training to Address Operational Challenges
    • Before implementing GPS tracking in the Indian criminal justice system, there is a need for training officials who will handle monitoring systems.
    • This training should encompass an understanding of how GPS devices work, emphasising the importance of knowledge and expertise in managing the technology. 


  • Given the uncritical attitude towards reliance on technology, GPS trackers are being used in the criminal justice system without careful consideration.
  • However, it is crucial to pause and ask questions about whether this technology is reliable and if law enforcement can use it properly.
  • Using GPS trackers without dealing with these basic issues could pose significant risks to the fair trial rights of those accused.

Q1) What is the meaning of bail?

The term ‘bail’ originated from an old French verb ‘bailer’ which means ‘to give’ or ‘to deliver’. Bail refers to the provisional release of the accused in a criminal case in which the court is yet to announce the judgement. The term ‘bail’ means the security that is deposited in order to secure the release of the accused.

Q2) What is the difference between regular bail and interim bail?

A regular bail is generally granted to a person who has been arrested or is in police custody. A bail application can be filed for the regular bail under section 437 and 439 of CrPC. Interim bail is granted for a short period of time and it is granted before the hearing for the grant of regular bail or anticipatory bail.

Source: The Indian Express