[Answered] Deprivation of liberty even for a single day is one day too many. In the light of the statement, discuss the reasons behind the increasing number of undertrials in India.

Introduction: Contextual introduction.

Body: Write some reasons behind the increasing number of undertrials in India.

Conclusion: Write a way forward.

An undertrial is a person who is being held in custody by a court of law and is awaiting trial for a crime.  According to National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), of the 554,034 prisoners, 77% were undertrials in 2021. In 2021, 29.1% of undertrials had been in prison for more than a year. District jails had the highest share of undertrials, accounting for 51.4% of the total, followed by the Central jails (36.2%) and Sub-jails (10.4%).

There are following reasons behind the increasing number of undertrials in India:

  • Low Capacity of Judicial System: India has 21 judges per million population, while the Law commission has recommended 50 per million. This along with lack of infrastructure results in large pendency of cases which now has reached over 4.5 crore cases.
  • Poor Economic and Education Levels: A large number of under trials are poor, illiterate, belonging to the marginalized communities. This along with lack of financial resources leads to inability to get legal aid and pay the bail amount.
  • Unnecessary Arrests and Issues of Bail System: Law Commission (268th Report) has highlighted that over 60% of arrests are unnecessary. The Commission report also highlighted that the rich and the affluent get bail with ease. However, poverty becomes the reason for incarceration of many prisoners, as they are unable to afford bail bonds or provide sureties.
  • Delay in Investigation: Investigation and trial process is often delayed by police and prosecution functionaries. This is due to poor ‘Police-Population’ Ratio. According to PRS, the sanctioned police strength was 181 police personnel per lakh persons in 2016, the actual strength was 137. The United Nations recommended standard is 222 police personnel per lakh persons.
  • Delays in Bail application: Sometimes, bail applications are kept pending for months. Unnecessary arrest coupled with no bail is a double whammy. Appeals by the convicted are pending for decades in some HCs
  • 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.

A comprehensive Bail Law should be enacted to curb arbitrary arrests.  There is a need for greater political and judicial will to push through the procedural reforms.

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