ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Undertrial Prisoners in India

Long Wait for Justice

Undertrial Prisoners in India

Across the world, prisons are increasingly used as instruments of social control. With its huge undertrial population in jails, India is headed in the same direction. Measures like restricting visitors' access to prisons only aggravate the situation.

The Indian reality of prisons is a picture of jails overflowing with undertrial prisoners, most of whom are from poor and marginalised communities. Thousands of them continue to languish in prisons despite landmark judgments by the Supreme Court and various high courts.

Many of them are in prison for petty and minor offences and are unable to avail of bail due to a lack of suitable sureties or an inability to pay cash bail. The 2015 judgment of the Supreme Court by the two-judge bench of Justices Madan Lokur and U U Lalit to immediately release undertrial prisoners who have completed half the period of the maximum possible sentence on a Personal Recognizance (PR) Bond, is a reiteration of the earlier judgment of the apex court in September 2014 which passed the same directions. The Court has directed the National Legal Services Authorities (NALSA) to coordinate with state authorities and the home ministry to ensure that state undertrial review committees are established in every district within a month. These must consider release of undertrial prisoners entitled to the benefit of Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

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