Condition of Under trials

  • India has over 2.78 lakh under trials
  • 2/3rd of total incarcerated people in jails are under trials
  • NHRC Report has highlighted the horrible conditions of undertrials.
  • Many of these are languishing in jail for periods even more than their sentences
  • Reasons for so many under trials
    1. Primary reason is poverty as these under trials are not able to afford their legal fees
    2. Absence of Undertrial Review Committee that function to bring these individuals to quick justice
    3. Lack of Adequate Legal Aid
    4. Delays in the functioning of courts
    5. Lack of effective Prison Management Systems
  • Government Steps:
    1. Code of criminal procedure amended in 2005 to introduce Section 436A to reduce overcrowding
      • Under this section, an under trial must be released on their own personal bond in case they have spent more than half of the period specified for their offense in the jail already.
  • Recommendations:
    1. Legal Aid Agencies must create awareness among prisoners about their rights
    2. Government must undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the economic and social costs of keeping so many innocent people in jail as they could even become criminals in poor jail conditions and their mental conditions may degrade.
    3. Expediting the trial process is a critical point
    4. Concept of open prisons needs to be further worked on to address the overcrowding in jails as due to overcrowding there is disorder and a few prisoners understand the distinction between criminal conduct and good citizenship;
    5. NHRC has found that undertrials in a few cases remained in judicial custody for 24-54 years which is much above the period of a sentencing to imprisonment under any section of the IPC.
    6. Seeking monthly reports from all the Inspectors General of prison on the number of convicts and undertrial prisoners in their jails;
    7. Release of undertrial prisoners on bond if they have completed half or two-thirds of their punishment period;
    8. Working out a system of holding regular special courts in the prisons for early disposal of cases;
    9. To offload a large number of prisoners by making the availability of bail accessible, undertaking speedy trials and providing legal aid;
    10. An institutional mechanism should be in place to protect the future of the children of the prisoners;
    11. Prison conditions should be made more people-friendly, keeping in view the needs of women, aged and mentally-ill prisoners;