Rock The Jailhouse – Too many Indians are locked up under dozens of obsolete laws. Legal reform must precede prison reform

Source: The post is based on the article “Rock The Jailhouse – Too many Indians are locked up under dozens of obsolete laws. Legal reform must precede prison reform” published in The Times of India on 24th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections.

Relevance: About jail management.

News: Recently, the Prime Minister has called for repealing obsolete criminal laws and prison reforms to improve jail management.

What is the challenge in jail management?

India’s jails are horribly overcrowded. Almost 77% of India’s 5. 54 lakh prisoners are undertrials. In other words, three of four inmates have not even been convicted. As many as 11,490 prisoners had spent more than five years in jail without a conviction.

NCRB’s prison statistics for 2021 showed that the occupancy rate was 130%, a 12-percentage-point increase over the previous year. In two states, Uttarakhand and UP, the occupancy rate was as high as 185%.

How do obsolete and irrational criminal laws hamper jail management?

a) Over 10% of the prison population in 2021 were undertrials for rape and dowry deaths. Both are heinous crimes that should lead to severe punishment. However, sexual assault laws do not differentiate between rape and false promises of marriage, b) Anti-dowry laws are framed in such a way that police can arrest multiple people for one crime, c) About 25% of undertrials in 2021 were imprisoned under special and local laws – for crimes falling under the umbrella of liquor and narcotics. d) Prohibition laws are irrational and often lead to poorer citizens being jailed for long periods as India’s legal aid system is dysfunctional, and e) Section 292 of IPC (to deal with obscenity) and sedition law both introduced during the British Raj, were still in use.

Read more: About Prison reforms: What numbers don’t tell us
What needs to be done to improve jail management?

There are far too many unnecessary provisions in criminal laws that deprive many citizens of liberty. They need to be repealed. Both the political executive at the Centre and in states should initiate these changes.

Print Friendly and PDF