Deeptiman Tiwary,TNN | Sep 6, 2014, 06.30 AM IST

SC order to release undertrials will come to aid of Muslim prisoners
According to data com piled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2012, out of 3.8 lakh prisoners, 2.5 lakh are undertrials.

NEW DELHI: Muslim prisoners are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s decision to facilitate release of undertrials languishing in jails for long. This is because the rate of undertrial Muslim incarceration is almost twice that of Hindus. Calculated on the number of undertrials per lakh population (of people adhering to that particular religion), while the Hindu undertrial rate is 21.5, the Muslim rate is 38.81, suggesting more Muslims keep languishing in jails without a trial as compared to Hindus.

Another fact pointing to this is that while 17% of the convict population in jails constitutes Muslims, in the undertrial category it is 21%. In the case of Hindus, the reverse is true -71.4% of convicts are Hindus but only 69.9% of un dertrials profess the faith. Similarly, Sikhs constitute 4% of undertrials and 4.9% of convicts while Christians make 3.5% and 4%, respectively . This clearly indicates that Muslims, who constitute just over 13% of India’s population, are at a disadvantage as far as getting bail is concerned.

According to data com piled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2012, out of 3.8 lakh prisoners, 2.5 lakh are undertrials. Of these, 53,638 (21%) are Muslims. UP , Bihar, Maharashtra and West Bengal have the highest number of Muslim undertrials. But they also have a significant Muslim population.Undertrials languish in jails due to reasons that incldue repeated court adjournments, delays in police, prosecution not being ready , defence lawyers not being prepared, and the jail review systems going defunct, apart from a poor prisoner’s inability to arrange for a lawyer and bail. The situation is worst in states like UP , MP , Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Rajasthan where there is a wide gap in the Hindu and Muslim undertrial rate.Bihar turns out to be one of the best with both Muslim and Hindu undertrial rates neck to neck. Maharashtra is the worst with a difference of over 45 points between the Hindu and Muslim rates.

While this difference may not be entirely due to bias in the criminal justice system, a 2013 report on police attitude towards minorities prepared by three DGPs -Sanjeev Dayal of Maharashtra, Deoraj Nagar of UP and K Ramanujam of Tamil Nadu -and presented to the Centre held that there is a perception of police bias against Muslims. “It has to be admitted that the conduct of some members of the police forces… during communal riots had only served to strengthen these suspicions and distrust in the minority communities,” the report read.