Why in News?
- The Indian President has recently raised the issue of the plight of a large number of undertrials holed up in the prisons.
- An undertrial is a person who is currently on trial or who is imprisoned on remand whilst awaiting trial or a person who is on a trial in a court of law.
- The 78th Report of Law Commission also includes a person who is in judicial custody on remand during investigation in the definition of an ‘undertrial’.
- As per NCRB (National Crime Report Bureau), over the last 10 years, the number of undertrials in jails has risen constantly and peaked in 2021.
- In 2020, about 76% of all prison inmates in the country were undertrials, of which about 68% were either illiterate or school dropouts.
- Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) were found to have the highest ratio of undertrials in jails at 91%, followed by Bihar and Punjab at 85%, and Odisha at 83%.
- About 27% of all undertrials were found to be illiterate, and 41% had dropped out before Class X.
- The Undertrials are victims of multiple failings that start with inappropriate criminalization, followed by indiscriminate arrests, weak bail entitlements and inadequate summary disposals through Lok Adalats.
- The need Is for a holistic legislative reform that aims to expand the horizons of individual liberties.
- Provisions of Section 167 of the CrPC with regard to the time limit for police investigation in case of accused undertrial prisoners, should be strictly followed both the police and courts.
- Automatic extension of remands has to stop which are also given merely for the sake of the convenience of the authorities. Mere convenience of the authorities cannot supersede the Constitutional guarantees under Article 21.
- The emphasis should be on reducing undertrial population, by implementing the amended statutory provisions, judicial decisions regarding rights of undertrials, arrests and grant of bails, and the recommendations of various committees on prison reforms.
- Prisoners should be provided with better facilities than convicts, including food, clothing, water, medical facilities, sanitation, recreation and communication with relatives and lawyers.