Govt to release 70% of undertrials in six months

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 28 2010, 03:28am hrs
Arrested in 1968 in connection with a murder case in Faizabad, Jagjivan Ram Yadav spent over 38 years in jail instead of the 14-year term he would have got had he been convicted.

Similarly, Kolkatas Ajay Ghosh, held on charges of murdering his brother in 1962, spent 37 years in jail. He was never tried on mental grounds and finally was transferred to the Missionaries of Charity home in November 1999, while Prabhunath from Uttar Pradeshs Pattakhori village spent 34 years in Sriganganagar jail.

These are a few names among the thousands of undertrials who are silent victims of the apathy of law enforcing authorities.

Union law minister Veerappa Moilys announcement on Monday to release up to 70% (over 175,000) undertrials within six months has come as a ray of hope for lakhs of prisoners lodged in jails across the country.

According to Prison Statistics Indias latest report released by the National Crime Records Bureau last year, there were over 250,000 undertrials in 1,276 jails in the country.

While the undertrials comprised 66.6% of the total number of inmates (over 3,76,000 as of December 2007), more than 2,39,000 or 95.6% of total undertrials were men and 11,000 or 4.4% women, it said. If divided in different age groups, the report said, there were 357 undertrial prisoners in the age group of 16-18 years, 1,18,087 were in the age group of above 18 to 30, over 1,09,000 were in the age-group of above 30 to 50 years and 23,263 undertrials were in the age group of 50 years or more. As per the data, Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of undertrials (53,992), while Bihar comes second with over 33,300 languishing in different jails. Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh come next with nearly 16,300 undertrials.

Other states which had more than 10,000 people spending their days in jails without being convicted for their crimes were Jharkhand, Orissa, Punjab and West Bengal. The new scheme that would be in place in six months is being implemented in consonance with the various high courts of the country and is aimed at decongesting jails.

While the total capacity of all jails in the country, as per the National Crime Records Bureau 2007 data, is estimated at 2,77,300 over 3,76,300 inmates were lodged in them. The government expects about 70% of undertrials to be identified by July 31 for discharge or grant of bail, depending on the nature of crime.

Since the scheme involves judicial processes, the government had requested all the 21 high courts to identify cases that could be considered under it.