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Mains Answer Writing

16-November-2023

1.  The huge number of undertrials languished in prison reflects that equality before the law doesn’t always signify equal access to the law’. In this context discuss the reasons for a growing number of undertrials in Indian Prisons and also suggest corrective measures.

ANSWER

  • According to the World Prison Brief, India currently has the sixth-highest share of pre-trial detainees in the world. Among the 5,54,034 inmates across India’s prisons, 1% were under-trials and 22.2% were those who had been convicted by a court of law.
  • An extraordinary number of these undertrials are economically and socially vulnerable sections who cant seek or afford expensive judicial remedies. The vast number of undertrials show that despite India having Equality before the law, Equal access to Law is still a far-fetched dream.

REASONS FOR GROWING UNDER TRIALS

  1. Numerous impoverished and helpless undertrials are still disproportionately detained and frequently remanded to court custody in correctional facilities. Either a lack of financial means or a fear of the social stigma outside prevent them from seeking and obtaining bail.
  2. Indiscriminate arrests by the police even for petty cases is another reason for a huge number of undertrials. Nearly 60% of arrests in India are for small and minor crimes.
  3. Grossly inadequate number of judges and prosecutors to speedily dispose off the cases. Out of nearly 22000 posts available in subordinate courts, nearly 5000 of them are vacant hampering justice delivery.
  4. Remands are being extended mechanically due to a lack of time and patience with the presiding judge. Many times, the escorting police personnel merely produces the remand papers in the courts instead of actually producing the prisoner in front of the magistrate.
  5. Insufficient police manpower and vehicles make it impossible to produce every prisoner on time.
  6. Right, to bail is denied: Even in cases where the prisoner was charged with a bailable offense, they are found to rot in prisons due to exorbitantly high bail amounts.
  7. Guidelines not followed: Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court on bail and grant of the same are dependent upon the attitude of each judge.
  8. Absence of legal services: The right to effective Legal Aid is also violated due to the politicization of legal aid schemes as many lawyers are hired on political considerations who get a fixed salary without the pressure of disposing of cases at the earliest.

CORRECTIVE MEASURES

  1. Fast Trial: One of the most effective strategies to address the unjustified issue of overcrowding is still speedy trial. Filling vacancies in lower courts will considerably speed up the trials.
  2. Special Courts: It would be appropriate to establish fast-track courts specifically for minor infractions that have been open for longer than five years. The order of Dr. A.S. Anand – former Chief Justice of India on holding Special Courts in Jails for prisoners involved in petty offenses and willing to confess to their guilt should be implemented.
  3. Proper and scientific classification: To avoid future contamination of first-time and minor offenders, undertrial prisoners should be housed in facilities apart from convicted convicts.
  4. 4. Remands that are automatically extended and granted only for the convenience of the authorities must end. The mere convenience of the authorities cannot supersede the Constitutional guarantees under Article 21.
  5. Personal Recognizance Bond: People who are granted bail for minor offenses and those who are accused of them should be freed on a Personal Recognizance (PR) Bond if they are unable to find surety.
  6. Avoid Adjournment: When there are witnesses, the idea of plea bargaining—in which the accused concedes guilt in exchange for a less sentence—should be supported rather than deferred.
  7. Legal Aid: giving convicts efficient legal assistance as well as taking action to give them education and job skills.
  8. Use of ICT: All states should promote and experiment with video conferencing between courts and jails, starting with the larger Central jails and working down to District and Sub jails.
  9. Release of under trials completing ⅓ punishments: In 2017, the Law Commission of India recommended that undertrials who have completed a third of their maximum sentence for offenses attracting up to seven years of imprisonment be released on bail.
  10. Review of delays by committee– The District Magistrate should constitute a committee consisting of representatives from the local police, judiciary, prosecution, district administration, and the prison department at a fairly high level, to visit the Sub jails under their jurisdiction at least once every month and review delay in cases of prisoners if any and adopt suitable measures.

Legislative provisions have been altered to provide bail and personal bonds and minimize needless arrests. The rights of undertrial defendants to a prompt trial and counsel have been upheld by several rulings. However, the population of undertrials is growing.

This discrepancy results from the police, lower judiciary, and jail administration’s weak implementation of the law a. Many experts believe that by effectively implementing current rules, the problem may be resolved to a great extent.

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