Thursday, December 14, 2023

57,537 undertrials in prisons without conviction in Bihar

Bihar has 57,537 undertrials at the end of 2022, which is 13.2% of all the undertrial prisoners in India, according to Prison Statistics India–2022 released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Its Prison Statistics India (2022) Report (PSI). The PSI is based on the data furnished by the Prison Department of all 36 States/UTs for a calendar year i.e. January 01 to December 31, 2022, as per the NCRB prescribed proformae through an Application developed by NCRB. It reveals that above 75% prisoners are under- trials, The actual occupancy of prisons is 131%. There are 1.9% incidence of recidivism, the percentage of former prisoners who are rearrested for a similar offense. The report discloses that reasons of unnatural deaths of 63 prisoners in prisons is unknown. 

The number of undertrial prisoners in Bihar was 44,187 at the end of 2020. It constituted 11.9% of all the undertrial prisoners in India, according to Prison Statistics India–2020 released by NCRB. 

Most of these prisoners belong to SC, ST and OBC communities. 

In Re: Policy Strategy for Grant of Bail (2022), the Supreme Court recommended the release of undertrial prisoners by upholding the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to a speedy trial. 

An under-trial prisoner is one who has been remanded to judicial custody and lodged in prison upon an allegation of having committed some offence defined and made punishable under some penal law in force with a view to remaining available to meet the charges and face trial. When the trial concludes and the accused is held guilty, the accused becomes a convict lodged in the jail serving the sentence. He ceases to be an under-trial prisoner in the case in which he has been convicted. It may be that convict lodged in prison is taken on remand in another case. He then becomes an under-trial prisoner for the said another case.  

The Supreme Court’s judgment in 2014 held that undertrials can be released on bail on personal bonds provided half of the maximum period of sentence has already been spent inside the jail. 

Earlier, a report titled "Prisons of Bihar: Status Report-2015" by Smita Chakravarty, a researcher studied living conditions of all the 58 prisons of Bihar. She was assigned this study project by Justice V.N. Sinha, Judge of Patna High Court and Executive Chairman, Bihar State Legal Services Authority. It disclosed gross violation of human rights of the prisoners that are under the care and custody of the State. 

Notably, National Human Rights Commission had issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Prisons, Government of Bihar for factual reports.

The study is based on interview of 30070 inmates. The study highlighted the following issues:

" Complete absence of medical facilities in prisons, particularly for women;

" Bias against terror accused and undertrials by denying them even the copy of chargesheet in cases against them;

" Forced Labour by undertrials which is punishable under Indian Penal Code;

" Punishment of prisoners, under the discretionary powers provided by the Prison Manual Rules without supervision by an appellate body;

" Denial of free legal aid counsel to undertrials, as very few advocates meet the undertrials in the court and they are not represented when produced before the Magistrate;

" Condition of women prisoners and need of medical and psychiatric help etc. 

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