NHRC’s initiatives release many undertrials from prisons

The National Human Rights Commission has been taking steps to arrange the release of undertrials from various prisons in the country, looking at the problem both from the human angle as well as the perspective of better Prison Management. These efforts have resulted in the release of nearly 200 prisoners from the Tihar Jail of Delhi, 100 prisoners from jails in Punjab and about 319 prisoners in Tamil Nadu. Steps are also being taken in Bihar in this regard.

Undertrial prisoners constitute about 75 per cent of the prison population in the country. The National Human Rights Commission has constantly been urging the release of undertrial prisoners on bail, if they are entitled to it. Studies have shown that undertrials are often languishing in jail because they are not produced in court owing to the shortage of police escorts. The position is aggravated by the slow rate of disposal of cases in the courts of law.

About 400 prisoners in Tihar jail had been granted bail by the courts but could not be released because of their failure to provide sureties. The NHRC accordingly took up this matter with the Tihar Jail authorities as well as the Delhi Legal Aid Board. The latter deputed lawyers to study the cases of these prisoners. The efforts of the jail authorities and the Delhi Legal Aid Board have thus far resulted in the release of nearly 200 prisoners.

The Commission has also requested the Chief Justices and Judges of the different High Courts of the country to look into the problems of undertrials. Shri V.K. Bali, Judge of the Punjab & Haryana High Court visited various jails in Punjab and scrutinised the reports of undertrials. He has ordered the release of more than 100 undertrials either on bail or on personal bonds, on the spot.

The Bihar State Legal Services Authorities have informed the Commission that they had earmarked 17 lawyers to work for the release of undertrial prisoners in four important jails of Bihar. A large number of ticket-less travelers in trains have been languishing in jails for more than six months without being produced before the court. The district police claimed that the number of prisoners taken before the competent courts is circumscribed by the availability of ‘rope and handcuffs’ of which there is an alleged shortage. The State Legal Services Authority has proposed that Railway Magistrates should hold their courts in the respective jails periodically to deal with such cases.

The Commission hopes that these initiatives such as there will lessen the number of undertrial prisoners in Indian Jails substantially and also bring speedier justice to those involved.