Sunday, May 25, 2014

67% of India’s prisoners are under trials

2 lakh 45 thousand 2 hundred forty four Indian prisoners are under trials

1336 prisons across India

Total capacity to house prisoners: 2,63,911 prisoners

Some statistics from NCRB 2006

Statistics revealed by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2006. That our prisons are overflowing is well known ( 1336 prisons across India house a total population of 3,73,271 prisoners as against a stipulated capacity of 2,63,911 prisoners). But what is not so well known is the nature of the inhabitants of these prisons. Some 67% of India’s prisoners are under trials, individuals as yet not held to be guilty by any Court of law. With our legal system having a presumption of innocence, we effectively spend 70% of our prison-space and resources for prison maintenance and development on innocents. The NCRB data reveals that 2, 45,244 of Indian prisoners are under trials. These under trials languish in jail due to inadequate legal aid, unsympathetic judges, a bail-system linked inextricably to property & financial wellbeing and a general lack of awareness about rights of arrestees. The single largest tragedy is the continued detention of individuals accused of bailable offences, where bail is a matter of right.
Judicial Trend - few examples
An overview of the following cases highlight the adverse condition of the poor with regard to the unjust bail system in India. 
1. In State of Rajasthan v Balchand [14], the accused was convicted by the trial court. When he went on appeal the High Court, it acquitted him. The State went on appeal to the Hon'ble Supreme Court under Art. 136 of the Constitution through a special leave petition. The accused was directed to surrender by the court. He then filed for bail. It was then for the first time that Justice Krishna Iyer raised his voice against this unfair system of bail administration. He said that though while the system of pecuniary bail has a tradition behind it, a time for rethinking has come. It may well be that in most cases an undertaking would serve the purpose.
2. In Moti Ram and Ors. v State of M.P [15], the accused who was a poor mason was convicted. The apex court had passed a sketchy order, referring it to the Chief Judicial Magistrate to enlarge him on bail, without making any specifications as to sureties, bonds etc. The CJM assumed full authority on the matter and fixed Rs. 10,000 as surety and bond and further refused to allow his brother to become a surety as his property was in the adjoining village. MR went on appeal once more to the apex court and Justice Krishna Iyer condemned the act of the CJM, and said that the judges should be more inclined towards bail and not jail.
3. In Maneka Gandhi v Union of India [16], Justice Krishna Iyer once again spoke against the unfair system of bail that was prevailing in India. No definition of bail has been given in the code, although the offences are classified as bailable and non-bailable. Further Justice P.N.Bhagwati also spoke about how unfair and discriminatory the bail system is when looked at from the economic criteria of a person this discrimination arises even if the amount of bail fixed by the magistrates isn't high for some, but a large majority of those who are brought before the courts in criminal cases are so poor that they would find it difficult to furnish bail even if it's a small amount.

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