Naziya Alvi Rahman
A year after the Supreme Court announced the immediate release of all inmates, who have served half of their maximum term without the completion of trial, the top court has gone a step ahead asking state governments to consider releasing those who have served one fourth of the total sentence.
If consensus is reached on the proposal, its implementation can reduce the number of undertrials languishing in jails drastically. Prisons all across the country are bustling with undertrials, who have been awaiting justice for donkey’s years. The relief, however, will not be extended to those undertrial prisoners whose offence attracts death penalty.
“The government has just received the communication and a decision will be taken soon after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis returns from Japan,” said a senior officer.
Acting on a PIL, the apex court in September 2014 had asked the law ministry to mobilise judicial officers across the country to visit every prison in their district for two months to identify and release undertrial prisoners who have undergone detention for half the maximum period of imprisonment their offence prescribes under law.
Experts say that as per Section 436-A CrPC undertrial prisoners, who suffer detention “during the period of investigation, inquiry or trial” for one half of their maximum imprisonment, should be released by the court on personal bond with or without sureties. However, the law was rarely followed.
As per National Crime Records Bureau, around 2.54 lakh prisoners across the country are undertrials. Around 5.6 lakh undertrials were released on bail under the previous UPA government. Meanwhile, Maharashtra has 50 jails with a total capacity of 25,000 prisoners. However, at present they house close to 27,000 inmates which takes the strength to 110% of the capacity.