Under the Central government's six-month-long scheme to decongest prisons; more will be released by July 31

Over two lakh undertrials charged with petty offences have been released from jails or granted bail under the Union government's six-month-long scheme to decongest prisons, Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said here on Sunday.

He was addressing journalists after presiding over a day-long western regional meeting on the implementation of the 13th Finance Commission recommendations in improving justice delivery and other matters.

On the issue of undertrials, Mr. Moily said that of the over 3 lakh undertrials languishing in various jails, the scheme had envisaged the release of two-thirds by the end of this month.

“Between January 2010 and till date, 2 lakh undertrials have been released,” he said, adding: “More will be released by July 31, the last date of the scheme.”

Mr. Moily said the release had meant relief to nearly 10 lakh people in the country, adding that “it will be a sustaining process” and a “reflection and demonstration of the willpower of the judiciary.”

He said the Centre — which has already formulated a Central policy on litigation in a bid to reduce the pendency of litigation in different courts — had asked the States to come up with a State policy.

The States had been told, he said, to have their policy in place soon as next year's instalment of the Central funds of the Finance Commission would depend on it.

Stating that more than 30 per cent of the space of courts was occupied by Central and State litigations, Mr. Moily said: “We want to vacate this space and release it to take care of the litigations of general public.”

Reiterating the Centre's commitment to providing adequate infrastructure, manpower and wherewithal to courts to function with independence and efficiency, Mr. Moily said the pendency of courts had to be brought down effectively.

“The Centre has made a special provision of Rs.14,000 crore, of which Rs.5,000 crore has already been released to the States, and the balance will be released soon,” he said, urging the States to prepare a roadmap to reduce the pendency of cases from over five years to over three years.

Mr. Moily said the Centre had agreed to give flexibility to the States to use the Central grants. “Provided they stick to the basic parameters, they will be allowed to utilise the funds in response to their specific problems,” he added.

Mr. Moily said the Law Ministry would introduce a new concept of Court Managers in High Courts and district courts. This is expected to reduce around three hours of the judges' administrative burden on a daily basis.

Stating that the arbitration was a very important aspect of judicial reforms aimed at reducing the pendency, Mr. Moily said the second consultative meeting on this subject would be held on August 1.

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