SC for early release of undertrial prisoners

SC for early release of undertrial prisoners

SC for early release of undertrial prisoners

Observing that poverty cannot be the ground for incarcerating a person, the Supreme Court has directed the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to ensure release of undertrial prisoners, jailed for compoundable offences or for their inability to pay the bail amount.

A social justice bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit relied upon the Union Home Ministry’s data stating that 67 per cent of all the prisoners in jails were undertrials. The number of such prisoners was said to be about 2.78 lakh as of December 31, 2013.

Acting on a PIL, the court directed the NALSA to coordinate with state authorities and Home Ministry to ensure that state undertrial review committee was established in every district within a month. The committee should hold its review meeting by June 30 and should consider the cases of all undertrial prisoners entitled to the benefit of Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code, the court ordered.

Section 436 of the CrPC allowed a person, arrested in a case, to be released on personal bond in view of the pendency of the trial. Compoundable offences are those offences which could be settled with or without permission from the court.

The court rejected the Home Ministry’s contention that in case of multiple offences having different periods of incarceration, a prisoner should be released after half the period of incarceration was undergone for the offence with the greater punishment.

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