Says many languish in jails as undertrials for years or remain unjustly incarcerated

Asserting that a large number of people, particularly minorities, languish in prisons as undertrials for years, or remain ‘unjustly incarcerated’, Press Council of India (PCI) chairperson Justice Markandey Katju has decided to set up a ‘Court of Last Resort’ to examine such cases.

“In such cases, the police either fabricates evidence or there is inadequate legal representation, or a court finds an accused innocent but after he has already spent years in prison,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

He noted that many such people were from the minority community because of ‘suspicions and preconceived notions that all persons of that community are terrorists’.

“Since 2001, a terrible maxim had seeped into the Indian mainstream; All Muslims may not be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” It did not matter if innocent were caught as long as there was an illusion of ‘action taken’. This, in turn, was triggering ‘new cycles of hate and revenge’ and unless this was reversed, the PCI chairperson warned, ‘we are heading for terrible times, as injustice breeds hatred and violence’.

In this backdrop, ‘The Court of last Resort’ — of which Justice Katju would be the patron — would ask States about details of both undertrails and convicts who have been in prisons for long; examine whether there has been injustice and apply for bail if necessary; apply for ‘pardon, respite, suspension or reduction of sentence’ to the President or Governor; and ‘educate the police.’ Others behind the initiative include film-maker Mahesh Bhatt, and lawyer Majeed Memon.

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