Confinement To A Cage: The Bridled Under Trial Prisoners In India

Update: 2024-04-03 03:30 GMT
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The Manu's legal system in this terra firma is chicanery from the nutshell inside, the criminal justice delivery mechanism is grappling with a persistent problem of overcrowding in prisons, targeted towards the case of under-trial prisoners, Indian Constitution guaranteeing basic human rights to every individual, the condition of under-trial prisoners goes beyond the just principles...

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The Manu's legal system in this terra firma is chicanery from the nutshell inside, the criminal justice delivery mechanism is grappling with a persistent problem of overcrowding in prisons, targeted towards the case of under-trial prisoners, Indian Constitution guaranteeing basic human rights to every individual, the condition of under-trial prisoners goes beyond the just principles of speedy trial and dignified living. The prison population in India mainly comprises under-trial prisoners (70%) with convicts and detenues accounting for 22.2% and 0.6%, respectively, as of December 2021. The number of under-trial inmates has increased by 14.9% from 2020 to 2021, with a total of 4,27,165 under-trialprisoners, while other prisoners accounted for 0.1% of the total prisoners, who have yet to be decided the fate of conviction or acquittal of their alleged offenses, behind bars while they await trial. Variety of factors contribute to inadequate legal counsel, sluggish investigations, and a delayed court system, under-trial inmates in India are frequently detained for extended periods of time. This results in inferior living circumstances, abuse, neglect, and severe mental and physical suffering. After all these horrifying sufferers, they are proven to be innocent of all accusations. The matter of concern still subsists in face of the slow paced implementational exhortation. The goal is to advocate for the identification of such violations and to provide a framework for discussing the legal just, in this utopian land. Additionally, this article will propose possible solutions, recommendations, and suggestions for a more effective administration of justice that offers legal protection to the fundamental rights of individuals, whose fate rests in the clutches of nemesis.

Who Are Categorized As Under-Trial Prisoners?

A person detained and being held in custody while their case is still being looked into or has not yet been fully tried and completed by a court of law is referred to as being“under trial”. They are presumed innocent until proven guilty and have the right to defend themselves in court. Entitled to the same advantages and rights as every other citizen, such as the right to a prompt trial, access to legal representation, and access to medical treatment while in detention. However, despite these legal protections, under-trial prisoners often suffer from prolonged detention, inadequate access to legal representation, and poor living conditions in jails. They endure assault, abuse, and neglect, making their suffering even worse.

The majority of offenders awaiting trial come from lower socio-economic classes with rural and agricultural ancestries, due to which these individuals lack the resources and knowledge necessary to effectively represent themselves. The inability of under-trial prisoners to provide monetary security often results in them being denied bail and left without a voice. The situation is severely critical and has to be addressed. The government and judiciary must realize that there are many convicts who are waiting for justice. It's time to take action and deal with their situation.

Non Observance Of Legislative Structure

Between the prisoner and the constitution, no wall of iron can be built.There were 4,27,165 inmates awaiting trial in India as of December 31, 2021, a 14.9% rise from 3,71,848 at the same time in 2020. District jails house the majority of these inmates (51.4%), followed by Central jails (36.2%), and sub jails (10.4%). With 21.2% (90,606) of all Indian convicts awaiting trial, Uttar Pradesh leads the country, closely followed by Bihar (13.9%, 59,577) and Maharashtra (7.4%, 31,752). It is worth noting that out of the 4,27,165 undertrial prisoners, only 53 were civil inmates.

Section 436A (Crpc) averts the under trial prisoners from being detained indefinitely, have not been charged with a crime punishable by death and have been in detention for a duration equal to or more than 50% of the maximum sentence of imprisonment specified under the law for the offense they are charged with. Fulfillment of these conditions, the trial court requires Personal Release Bond, with or without sureties. It is predominant that no individual can be detained for a period exceeding the maximum duration of imprisonment prescribed for the offense under trial, as per the second provision to this section. Chapter XXXIII involves bail & bonds to be issued, wherein the accused has the right to be granted bail, by the police or the courts. Unable to embellish surety within one week of arrest, he or she may be released on personal bond without sureties for appearance, on the grounds of “indigent”. Section 437(1) :for non-bailable offenses, the no-claim bail is a matter of right, but the law gives special consideration to certain individuals, such as those who are under sixteen, women, sick, or infirm. Additionally, the court may grant bail for other special reasons, where it deems it just and proper to do so. The Supreme Court in a landmark case had also ruled that under Section 436-A of the Criminal Procedure Code, undertrials who have already served more time in detention than their possible sentences must be set free on personal bond.

Professional legal expertise is crucial for fair judicial justice, as Anglo-American models of the legal system require lawyer-power to ensure equal justice under the law. Judges should consider factors like crime severity, prior convictions, tampering risk, and flight risk. The accused should be freed on bail without sureties for the verdict if they are still in detention following a trial and are presumed to be innocent. The right to bail exists even when the investigation or charge sheet is not completed within a limited time bar, even in cases of serious crimes, bail can be granted. People charged with minor crimes resulting in prison terms of three years or less have their cases dragged for the longest. This leads to disadvantaged and impoverished spending lengthy periods in jail, because they lack the wherewithal to post bail or due to no voice.

Does India Appropriate The Norway Model

Punitive prisons restrict inmates' freedom of movement and privacy, which results in the deprivation of basic needs, solitary confinement, and loss of visits. The goal of rehabilitation-based prisons, in contrast, is to strengthen offenders' accountability by promoting awareness of the effects of their acts on victims, as well as to offer assistance and direction for their effective reintegration back into society.

Recidivism, or the frequency of repeat offenses, is a major issue in many countries. According to studies, the percentage is influenced by a variety of elements, people's pre-incarceration circumstances, social contexts, and community prison experiences. The successful reintegration of ex-offenders into society is the most important factor impacting recidivism because they frequently struggle to obtain work, reestablish relationships with loved ones, and reconstruct their life after being released.The Norwegian prison system prioritizes the “normalization” theory, aiming to create an environment that mirrors life outside prison to aid successful reintegration. The use of open prisons, protection of human rights, and access to education and treatment are emphasized to reduce recidivism rates. This approach is widely regarded as modern and humane, with many countries adopting its methods.

Ex-offenders struggle to reintegrate because of social stigma and discrimination. In order to simulate life outside of jail, Norway's prison system gives inmates autonomy and access to personalized items. India could gain from adopting Norway's emphasis on inmates' human rights and providing them with rehabilitation in order to lower recidivism and facilitate their effective reintegration back into society.

Judicial Approach- The Issue Of Overcrowding Under-Trial Prisoners

Improvement of living conditions and reduction of overcrowding in prisons for under-trial prisoners is emphasized by Indian courts and constitution., at the ground level, these basic human and fundamental rights are overlooked or neglected. In the case of Bhim Singh v. Union of India, the Supreme Court gave a set of instructions to state officials to enable the release of under-trial prisoners who have completed half of their potential maximum prison term. However, the problem remains that these individuals have not been convicted of a crime, yet they have had to serve half of a possible sentence. And this indirectly violates their fundamental right to live with personal liberty. In March 2023, Niranaram Chetanram Chaudhary, who had been falsely accused of murder and robbery when he was just 12 years old, was acquitted and proven innocent at the age of 41; the person had to suffer 28 years of detention for slow andsluggish growth of the justice system.

As the socio-economic class is in the majority among the under-trial prisoners, the Court in Moti Ram & Others v. State of Madhya Pradesh held that Bail should be given liberally to poor people, and the bail amount should be fixed based on the financial condition of the accused. Furthermore, in Khatri & Others v. State of Bihar, the Court reiterated the right to free legal services for accused persons and ordered magistrates to inform the accused of their right to legal aid. The Supreme Court also ordered the discharge of defendants in certain cases where trials had not commenced within specified timeframes.

The oppressive treatment suffered by the under-trial prisoners was examined by the Apex Court in Charles Sobraj v.Superintendent Central Jail, Tihar, New Delhi, held that the court must intervene to protect prisoners' constitutional rights and statutory prescriptions, and that imprisonment shall not negate fundamental rights. Similarly, in Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, held that the court has a duty to reform prison practices and protect the rights of prisoners. Disciplinary autonomy cannot violate human rights or prevent grievances from reaching the judiciary. Rehabilitation shall be prioritized, and harsh punishment should be avoided.

Nevertheless, the analysis of the Judicial approach clearly mirrors that there are few instances wherein the Supreme Court has commanded the legal issue, but still, the lacunas are evident for which the under-trials have to suffer in terms of speedy justice, and fundamental liberty.

The prison environment is dreary, lacking sunlight and freedom, and criminal activity takes on a disturbing psychological dimension. To ensure the protection of the legal rights of all inmates and prevent prolonged detention, effective collaboration among all facets of the criminal justice system is crucial. To safeguard the legal rights of inmates, avoid prolonged detention, collaboration among all criminal justice entities is crucial. A judicial agency and trained social workers can address grievances and aid prisoners, families, and the released in legal rights and rehabilitation. To tackle the issue of undertrial prisoners held for long periods, it is the responsibility of criminal justice authorities to implement existing regulations for their protection.

Views are personal.


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