Over 42,000 undertrials released to unclog prisons: NALSA report

16,391 convicts have also been freed on parole

Updated - May 17, 2020 10:50 pm IST

Published - May 17, 2020 09:57 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Photo for representation.

Photo for representation.

Legal services institutions have intervened to release 42,529 undertrial prisoners as well as 16,391 convicts on parole to de-congest prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic, a report from the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) said.

Also read: Women convicts in Kerala may walk out of jails

The NALSA, a statutory body to provide free legal services to the weaker sections, said 243 undertrial prisoners had been granted bail and 9,558 persons in remand had been given legal representation across the country. The report was prepared under the aegis of NALSA Executive Chairman and Supreme Court judge N.V. Ramana.

It said the highest number of undertrial prisoners released was 9,977 in Uttar Pradesh, followed by 5,460 in Rajasthan and 4,547 in Tamil Nadu, 3,698 in Punjab and 3,400 in Maharashtra.

The Supreme Court observed in March that physical distancing, an effective measure to check the spread of the novel coronavirus, would be difficult in prisons. There are 1,339 prisons with approximately 4,66,084 inmates. The court said the National Crime Records Bureau put the rate of occupancy at Indian prisons at 117.6%. The court issued guidelines, formed committees and asked the legal services authorities to work together and release undertrial prisoners and those on bail and parole to bring the prison population down.

Also read: Over 17,500 prisoners set to walk free in Maharashtra

Legal assistance was provided in 658 cases of domestic violence during the lockdown. A total of 727 cases was reported to State legal services authorities, including 144 in Uttarakhand — which is the highest — 79 in Haryana, 63 in Delhi, 48 in Tamil Nadu and 18 in Kerala.

“The NALSA, in coordination with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, has issued directions to the State legal services authorities to collaborate with One Stop Centres (OSCs) established in each State for providing legal assistance to women facing domestic violence. The focus has been to provide legal assistance as well counselling services to victims and the needy,” the report said.

It said legal aid and assistance was provided in 310 cases of tenants facing eviction during the lockdown.

“More than 90 lakh people have so far been facilitated by the Legal Services Authorities in accessing food, medicine, shelter, etc. The Authorities are also using their colossal network to effectively communicate information between the States for providing assistance to people stranded in different places,” the report said.

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