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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 03 August, 2022

  • 8 Min Read

UNDERTRIAL PRISONERS IN INDIA

UNDERTRIAL PRISONERS IN INDIA The first all-India meet of District Legal Services Authorities was inaugurated in New Delhi.

In this Hon. PM. urged the judiciary to speed up the release of undertrial prisoners by providing them with legal aid.

Undertrial prisoners

  • An undertrial is a person who is currently on trial or who is imprisoned on remand and awaiting trial in a court of law.
  • The 78th Report of Law Commission also includes a person who is in judicial custody on remand during investigation in the definition of an 'undertrial'

Data on undertrial

  • The Prison Statistics India 2016 which is published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2019 highlights the plight of prisoners in India.
  • Under-trial Population: India’s under-trial population remains among the highest in the world and more than half of all undertrials were detained for less than six months in the year 2016.
  • The report highlights that at the end of 2016, there were 4,33,033 people in prison, of whom 68% were undertrials.
  • According to the ‘Prison Statistics India report published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2020, there were as many as 4,88,511 prison inmates of whom 76%, or 3,71,848, were undertrials.

Reasons:

  • Lack of coordination between the Centre, Judiciary, and State Governments.
  • Undertrials not having anyone to stand as guarantors nor assets to furnish as bail bonds led them to continue suffering in prisons.
  • Grossly inadequate number of judges and prosecutors.
  • An overburdened judiciary is a major reason for the delay in justice.
  • Police and prison officials often fail to fulfil their roles, leading to long delays in trials.
  • Unawareness about Section 436A of C.R.P.C.: There is a gap between the number of prisoners eligible to be released and actually released, under Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Suggestion

Classification and Separation:

  • Undertrial prisoners should be lodged in separate institutions away from the convicted prisoners.
  • There should be proper and scientific classification even among the undertrial prisoners to ensure the non-contamination of first-time and petty offenders into full-fledged and hardcore criminals.

For Overcrowding:

  • Speedy Trial: Speedy trial remains one of the best ways to remedy the unwarranted phenomenon of overcrowding.
  • Lawyer to Prisoner Ratio: There should be at least one lawyer for every 30 prisoners, which is not the present case.
  • Special Courts: Special fast-track courts should be set up to deal exclusively with petty offences which have been pending for more than five years.

Proximity to courts:

  • Institutions meant for lodging undertrial prisoners should be as close to the courts as possible.
  • All undertrial prisoners should be effectively produced before the presiding magistrates on the dates of the hearing.

Police reforms:

  • Police functions should be separated into investigation and law and order duties and sufficient strength to be provided to complete investigations on time and avoid delays.

Increasing the number of judges:

  • There should be an immediate increase in the number of judges and magistrates in some reasonable proportion to the general population.
  • There should be at least 107 judges per million of the Indian population.

Violation of any fundamental right:

  • In case of violation of any fundamental right of the prisoner then the state should give adequate compensation to the victim.

About the NALSA & DLSAs

National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA):

  • It was formed in the year 1995 under the authority of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987.
  • Its objective is to provide free legal services to eligible candidates and to organize the Lok Adalats for the speedy resolution of cases.

District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs):

  • There are a total of 676 District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs) in the country.
  • DLSAs is headed by the District Judges who act as the Chairman of the authority.
  • Various legal aid and awareness programs are run by the NALSA through DLSAs and State Legal Services Authorities (SLAs).
  • The DLSAs also contribute towards reducing the burden on courts by regulating the Lok Adalats conducted by NALSA.
  • DLSAs have been mandated to hold weekly meetings of undertrial review committees (UTRCs) to discuss progress, review additional cases, and discuss further action including the filing of bails in high courts and the Supreme Court if required.

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Source: The Indian Express


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