‘65% of prisoners in India are undertrials’

India among world’s “10 worst” in terms of undertrial proportion.”

Updated - November 17, 2021 03:48 am IST

Published - July 23, 2014 12:20 pm IST - Bangalore:

No less than 65 per cent of prisoners in India are undertrials, making the country one of the world’s 10 “worst” in terms of the proportion of undertrials languishing in its jails, said former Right to Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi at a press conference on Tuesday. India’s prisons have 2.5 lakh undertrials, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), and many of them are detained indefinitely because the prison system fails to comply with laws that mandate their release after a specified period, based on their offence, G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive of Amnesty International India, said at the press conference, organised by the NGO.

The prison system often violates the Code of Criminal Procedure (Section 436A), which states that undertrials must be released if they have served half the maximum period of imprisonment that their offence warrants [unless their crimes attract a death sentence], he said. The burgeoning number of undertrials is also overcrowding prisons, said Mr. Gandhi.

Several lapses contribute to the extended detention of undertrials, said Mr. Ananthapadmanabhan. The NGO found that in Karnataka, for instance, several prisons were not aware of undertrials’ rights prescribed in section 436A. Karnataka’s prisons had 8,940 undertrials in December 2012, constituting 68 per cent of its prisoners, according to NCRB. Of these, 51 have been detained in prison for over five years.

Undertrials were also trapped by a lack of legal aid. For instance, out of 11 lawyers nominated to provide legal aid in Bangalore Central Prison in January 2012, five had not visited the jail once in these two-and-a-half-years, Amnesty International found.

There were also delays in producing undertrials in court owing to the lack of police escorts and ineffective videoconferencing facilities. The Undertrial Review Committee in districts is “non-functional,” despite a November 2013 notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

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