Prisoners packed like sardines in Indian jails

A large number of undertrials remain in jail for over a year

Prisoners packed like sardines in Indian jails

Indian jails are bursting at the seams with the country’s jails housing 41,966 inmates above its capacity. At the end of last year, the country had 3,85,135 prisoners lodged in 1,394 jails.

Jails in Chhattisgarh are the worst affected, with 253 prisoners cramped together in a space allotted for 100, followed by Delhi prisons where 194 people share space allotted for 100, the report “Prisons Statistics India 2012” prepared by National Crimes Record Bureau has found. Chhattisgarh had a prison population of 14,780 and Delhi a population of 12,113 while Karnataka had 13,137 prisoners, just 37 more than the provided capacity.

The capacity of Indian jails has risen from 1,38,347 in 1995 to 3,43,169 last year, which is an addition of about 2.04 lakh.

The overcrowding of prisoners was a problem even in 1995 when the number of prisoners were 1,61,552 with an occupancy rate of around 115 per cent. Ten years ago in 2003, the prison capacity was 2,33,543 while the occupancy was a massive 3,26,519, a difference of around 93,000.

Last year, the highest number of inmates (80,311) were in Uttar Pradesh jails with an occupancy rate of 169 per cent.

The reason for the overcrowding of jails is attributed to the huge number of undertrials being lodged over a long period. There were 1,27,789 convicts and 2,54,857 undertrials.
The number of undertrials who were in jail for less than three months was 96,207. But a large amount of undertrials were those that remained in jail for over a year (57,390).

According to the report, 2,028 undertrials were in jail for the past five years. Speedy disposal of cases could be a relief for prison administration, which is battling a space crunch.

In a bid to reduce overcrowding in jails, the Home Ministry in January had told states that an undertrial has the right to seek bail on serving more than one half of the maximum possible sentence on their personal bond.

After observing that those who have continued to languish in jails for long periods of time were the poor as they couldn’t make surety, the Ministry said a “disproportionate amount” of prison space is being invested on under trials, which is “not sustainable”.

The state governments have been asked to review the cases of undertrials and develop a management information system every month to ascertain the progress made.

Among the 1.10 lakh convicted under sections of Indian Penal Code, 59 per cent of 64,949 were sentenced for murder with Uttar Pradesh topping the list.  The number of undertrials who were in jail on rape charges were 14,926 and on murder charges were 54,715.

With regard to rape cases, 7,009 convicts were in jail last year out of which 1,624 were from Uttar Pradesh while Delhi and Karnataka had 424 and 117 respectively.

The number of undertrials with murder charges in Uttar Pradesh was 8,594, while Delhi had 2,226 and 4,081 in Karnataka.

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