Undertrial population in prisons on rise

Undertrial population in prisons on rise

Overcrowding will continue to haunt Indian jails with the latest government statistics showing a rise in population of undertrial prisoners.

The number of undertrial prisoners have increased to 2.93 lakh in 2016, according to latest Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) data revealed in Parliament recently, from 2.82 lakh in 2015. If one takes 2000 as a benchmark, the increase in 16 years is close to 1 lakh.

The rise in 2016 comes after a marginal dip recorded in the previous year, the first in the past several years, compared to 2014.

The states responsible for  rise in population of undertrial prisoners are Uttar Pradesh and four other states -- Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal -- that records for 53% of the undertrials across India. UP, the biggest state in the country, has topped the list for another year with 68,432 undertrials, up from 62,669, while Karnataka has 10,504 such prisoners, a rise from 9,314 in 2015.

More details are not in public domain as the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is yet to publish the Prison Statistics India report for 2016, which was expected in the second half of last year.

Experts attribute this to unnecessary arrests by police, ignorance of law among undertrials and their inability to get a lawyer due to their poor economic conditions.

Another problem highlighted is the shortage of police escorts leading to a large number of undertrials not being produced in court for their hearings, which prolong their detentions. As per the 2015 report by NCRB, there were 3,599 undertrials who were in jail for more than five years.

Many of them are also unaware of the provision of Section 436A of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which given an undertrial the right to seek bail on serving more than one half of the maximum possible sentence on personal bond.

A study 'Justice Under Trial: A Study of Pre-Trial Detention in India' by Amnesty International India last year had said the country's undertrial population is estimated to be the 18th highest in the world and the third highest in Asia. While more than two-third of prisoners in India are undertrials, it has said, the US that is estimated to have the highest incarceration rate in the world has only 20% of prisoners are undertrials.  

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