|Introduction: Give context of rising number of under trials in India.|
Body: Write the reasons behind the high number of under trials in India. Suggest remedial measures.
Conclusion: Write effect of high number of under trials and need of solutions.
An undertrial is an unconvicted prisoner who is on trial in a court of law. Data from the NCRB ‘Prison Statistics India-2020’ indicates that the number of under trials in Indian prisons crossed 75% (of 4.83 lakh prisoners) by the end of 2020, increasing from 65% in 2011.
Reasons for high number of Under trials in prison.
- Low capacity of Judicial system: India has 21.03 judges per million population, while the Law commission recommends 50 per million. This along with lack of infrastructure results in large pendency of cases which now has reached over 4 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: A Law Commission in its 268th Report observed that over 60% of arrests are unnecessary. The Commission report also highlighted the fact 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, one of the reason behind this practice is low ‘Police- Population’ ratio.
Speedy trial is a fundamental right implicit in the guarantee of life and personal liberty enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution and under trial imprisonment abridges this right of individuals. Hence, it is imperative to take steps to address the issue of under trials.
- Improving capacity of the criminal justice system: Improving capacity of the system by increasing the number functionaries and providing the required infrastructure. Police functions should be separated into investigation and law and order duties.
- Amendments to bail provisions: The bail provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code shall be amended with emphasis on the early release on bail of under trials as recommended by The Law Commission. The Supreme Court has also observed that “Bail is a rule, jail is an exception”.
- Avoiding unnecessary arrests: Creation of Standard operating procedures and relevant training of police personnel to avoid unnecessary arrests.
- Aid to under trials: Access to free legal aid shall be provided to under trials through NALSA by increasing the capacity and reach of NALSA.
High number of undertrials in the prison leads to over-crowding and inhuman condition of prisons apart from increasing the expenditure of government on maintenance of prisons. It also impacts the individual’s personal, social and economic life apart from violating fundamentals rights. The Government should implement the recommendations of Law Commission on bail reforms as well as the Justice Mulla Committee recommendations on prison reforms.