At the end of 2019, more than one lakh people were lodged in Indian prisons as undertrials for more than a year. An undertrial is an unconvicted prisoner who is on trial in a court of law. The share of undertrials lodged in prisons for more than a year has increased over time as the percentage of cases pending judgment in courts has also increased sharply.
Undertrials on the rise
The number of people lodged in Indian prisons as undertrials increased at a faster rate between 2001 and 2019 than those convicted. At the end of 2019, 3.28 lakh prison inmates were undergoing trial, while 1.42 lakh were convicted.
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Pending cases pile up
As of Tuesday, 1.6 crore criminal cases were pending judgment for more than a year across all district and taluka courts in India. Of them, nearly 22 lakh cases were pending for over 10 years.
A longer confinement
Due to the high pendency rates in the courts, the share of undertrials confined in prison for more than one year, more than three years and more than five years increased between 2000 and 2019. The share of those confined for less than a year fell in this period.
At the end of 2019, more than 90% of undertrials were not graduates and about 28% were illiterate.