A study on under trial prisoners in the country

Under trial Prisoner is a person who has been committed to judicial custody and against whom a criminal trial has been initiated by a competent authority (trial is in process and not yet disposed off). In other words, it is the result of arrest for an alleged offence not followed by grant of bail.  There are three types of Under Trial Prisoners:

(a) Person being tried for Non-bailable offences in respect of whom the courts have declined to grant bail for release.

(b) Person being tried for non-bailable offences where courts have passed a bail order but difficulty in finding appropriate surety money or guarantee.

(c) Person tried for bailable offences but because of the difficulty of finding appropriate sutety or because of any other reaon do not furnish the bail bond.

REPORT ON UNDER TRIAL PRISONERS

There are 26 High Courts with Jurisdictions under 382 Districts dealing 51752 cases involving 98206 parties as on 26.05.2020. Break-up details are furnished as under:

    

S.No.

HIGH COURT

DISTRICTS

CASES

PARTIES

1.

ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT

44

4065

5313

2.

ANDHRA PRADESH HIGH COURT

9

417

955

3.

BOMBAY HIGH COURT - GOA

2

90

145

4.

BOMBAY HIGH COURT - DIU & DAMAN

1

1

6

5.

BOMBAY HIGH COURT - SILVASSA

1

1

1

6.

BOMBAY HIGH COURT - MAHARASHTRA

34

14730

29730

7.

CALCUTTA HIGH COURT

9

76

84

8.

CHATTISHGARH HIGH COURT

12

317

461

9.

GUWAHATI HIGH COURT

19

527

629

10.

HIGH COURT FOR THE STATE OF TELENGANA

10

14858

36406

11.

HIGH COURT OF MANIPUR

1

21

22

12.

HIGH COURT OF RAJASTHAN

7

6

9

13.

HIGH COURT OF DELHI

6

154

196

14.

HIGH COURT OF GUJARAT

32

7371

11206

15.

HIMACHAL PRADESH HIGH COURT

5

51

66

16.

JAMMU & KASHMIR HIGH COURT

11

250

354

17.

JHARKHAND HIGH COURT

15

274

357

18.

KARNATAKA HIGH COURT

30

3255

5195

19.

KERALA HIGH COURT

9

39

48

20.

MADHYA PRADESH HIGH COURT

41

1907

2800

21.

MADRAS HIGH COURT

15

53

61

22.

MEGHALAYA HIGH COURT

1

19

24

23.

ORISSA HIGH COURT

5

11

15

24.

PATNA HIGH COURT

21

1299

1633

25.

PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT - HARYANA

10

423

782

26.

PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT - PUNJAB

12

307

479

27.

SIKKIM HIGH COURT

2

11

12

28.

TRIPURA HIGH COURT

5

27

34

29.

UTTARKHAND HIGH COURT

13

892

1183

GRAND TOTAL

382

51752

98206

*Source- National Judicial Data Grid

Under the Chairmanship of Mr. Justice Hans Raj Khanna (1974-1977) the 8th Law Commission was constituted. The  78th Report was presented on 02.02.1979 to Shri Shanthi Bhushan, Minister for Law, Justice & Company Affairs in respect of Congestion of Under trial persons in Jail which was accepted and implemented by the then Government .

CRUX OF 8TH LAW COMMISSION - REPORT NO: 78

Out of possible remedies to prevent intermixing of Convicts and Undertrial prisoners and avoid evils of contamination provision of two classes of prisoners should be housed separately. The Report proposed to revisit the process of Bail Procedures and make suitable amendments both in IPC and Cr.PC. Gist of recommendations are as under:

d) Cases where accused persons are in jail should be given preference and the disposal time period should be within four months.

(e) Courts should be entertain interference of multiple parties who are interested in prolonging the case

(f) Trial Court Magistrates should furnish periodical statements of cases in which the accused are in custody and the reasons for non-conclusion of trial proceedings within the prescribed period.

(g) Agitators who defy law and court arrest who would not seek bail should be put for trial immediately after the arrest.

(h) UT prisoners who keep peace and good behaviour and are detained in jail because of inability to furnish the requisite bond. Their caes should be heard promptly and proceedings concluded within three months.

(i) Diversion of investigating officers to other duties should be avoided and they should submit their reports within three months’ time.

(k) If investigation is not completed within the stipulated period the accused should be released on bail.

(l) Adjournments should not be granted unless absolutely necessary if the accused is in jail.

(m) Expansion of the category of bailable offences under IPC through suitable amendments.

(n) Offences umder laws other than IPC punishable with 3 years imprisonment should be made bailable with exceptions

(o) Statutory requirement that the amount of bond shall not be excessive

(p) Proposed amendments in Cr.PC to include the word “Release” instead of “Discharge” where a period of one month expires after arrest without the accused furnishing sureties, that shall be a fit ground for release on bond without sureties. Further a person released on bail shall be bound to appear and to surrender to custody.

(q) Discretion should be given to the court to release a period on bond without sureties where it is permitted by the Code.

(r) Power to release on bond without sureties should be expressly provided under Sections 393(3) and 439(1)(a) of Cr.PC.

(s) New offence punishing violation of the obligation so undertaken with imprisonment upto two years or fine or both for cognizable, non-bailable and triable by any Magistrate.

It is time to review these implemented calling for data from all  High Courts and compliance report to be analysed by an Independent Committee under the supervision of our Apex Court.

Pre-trial/remand prison population: trend

The table below gives an indication of the recent trend in the pre-trial/remand prison population. The final row shows the latest figures available. It consists of the number of pre-trial/remand prisoners in the prison population on a single date in the year (or the annual average) and the percentage of the total prison population that pre-trial/remand prisoners constituted on that day. 

    

Year

No. of Prisons

Actual Capacity of Prisons

No. of Prisoners at the end of the year

No. of Under trial Prisoners

Percentage of Under Trial Prisoners against Total Prisoners

Occupancy Rate at the end of the year

2016

1412

380876

433033

293058

67.68%

113.7%

2017

1361

391574

450696

308718

69.49%

115.1%

2018

1339

396223

466084

323537

69.42%

117.6%

Source: Prison Statistics India Report 2018 published by National Crime Records Bureau, MHA,GOI

Type of Offences under IPC:

    

 Offences under IPC Crimes

Number

%

Offences affecting Human Body - Murder,  Dowry Deaths, Attempt to Murder, kidnapping & Abduction, Rape, Assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty.

160925

63.5%

Offences against Property - Thefts, Extortion, Robbery, Dacoity, preparation & assembly for dacoity, Criminal Breach of Trust, Cheating, Arson, Burglar

73240

28.9%

Other offences under Special Local Laws(SLL)

19358

7.6%

Sentences & Incarceration

As on 31.12.2018 there are 323537 under trial prisoners whose are lavishing in various jails across the country as under:  (Latest figures)

    

Period of Confinement

UT Prisoners

%

Upto 3 months

117012

36.17

3 to 6 months

69180

21.38

6 to 12 months

55349

17.11

1 to 2 years

40217

12.43

2 to 3 years

22359

6.91

3 to 5 years

14316

4.42

More than 5 years

5104

1.58

It must be noted that a total of 1535871 under trial Prisoners were released during the year 2018, out of which out of which 92.97%  (14,27,942) were released on bail.,  59,357  were released based on acquittal on first instance and 24,651 were released subsequent to the acquittal on appeal., 33 were extradited to foreign countries and  1,072 were released under Section 436A of Code of Criminal Procedure.

ISSUES UPFRONT FOR UNDER TRIAL PRISONERS

Supreme Court observed that overcrowding is a common bane in the under-staffed prisons as both the prisoner and his guard equally suffer human rights violation. It is a known fact that the under trial prisoner:

(a)  who is yet to be heard in the court suffers the most, languishing behind bars for years together without a hearing from Court.

(b) numbers are highly disproportionate to those of convicts.

(c) Lawyer - UT Prisoner Ratio is highly disproportionate as there should be at least one lawyer for every 30 prisoners which is not place in the Criminal Justice Administrative System.

(d) Lack of Speedy trial remains one of the main deterrent factor.

(e) Due to unavailability of sufficient police guards for escort and transportation of the UT prisoners’ physical production before courts is a major constraint.

(f) Lack of legal advice to convicts to issues of remission and parole.

(g) Courts are not encouraged to release offenders on probation at pre-trial stage or after trial in deserving cases.

(h) Under trial Review Committees (UTRCs) set up in every district to review the cases of under trial inmates and submit reports to the legal services authorities in states and recommend the release of under trial prisoners.

(i) NALSA should engage the services of the empanelled lawyers from the States to offer free lawyers to poor at pre-release stage.

(j) To provide effective legal aid to the needy people right from the stage he is called to the police station.

(k) Committee to review, deliberate and recommend the release of under trials who have undergone their sentences even exceed the maximum period of their punishment if convicted.

(l) Lack of coordination between the Centre, Judiciary & State Governments.

(m) In case of bail there are neither any guarantors nor assets to furnish as bonds, the poor continued to suffer in prisons. There have been cases where the amount of bail is disproportionately high. One such case even went to the Supreme Court.

(n) Abuses faced in jail: The Constitution of India, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners clearly specify the standards of treatment with prisoners on trial. The Report observed that abuses relate toe 1) Prison violence 2) Criminalizing effect of a prison  due to Lack of  scientific classification of  hardened criminals  to separate them from others,  3) Health problems - Due to overcrowding and shortage of  adequate space 4) Mentally ill prisoners - 5) Drug abuse - 6) Effect on the families of prisoners -

NEED TO EXPLORE THE FOLLOWING AREAS TO ADDRESS ISSUES - UT PRISONERS

1. Whether Technology could be optimized to speed up hearing process from Jail to Court without physical movement of the Under Trial Prisoners to the court premises.

2. Whether all the recommendations including amendments proposed under Law Commission Report in IPC and Cr.PC. have been fully facilitated to dispose cases related to Under Trial prisoners.

3. Whether Courts resort to awarding Automatic extension of remands for the sake of the convenience of the authorities violating the Constitutional guarantees under Article 21.

4. Whether physical producing of prisoners at various stages of investigation and trial, in shifts system can be explored.

5. Whether High Level committee comprising local police, judiciary, prosecution, district administration and the prison department could be constituted 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.

6. To devise suitable laws and penalties resulting in the denial of The Right to Speedy Trial due to  -

(a).inadequate number of Judges and Prosecutors.; (b) Absence or belated service of summons on witnesses;; (c). Presiding judges proceeding on leave.;(d). Remands extended mechanically due to lack of time and patience of the judge.(e) Inadequacy of police personnel and vehicles for production of under trial prisoners on their due dates.(f) Escorting police personnel merely submits the remand papers in the courts instead of actually producing the prisoner in front of the magistrate.

7. Whether there could be alternative methods to dispose all the pending UT cases in one stroke through a Special Bench formed in the respective High Courts.

 

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