Undertrials languish in Indian jails
Priyanka Kakodkar, Imtiaz Jaleel, NDTV.COM
Monday, June 19, 2006 (Mumbai, Pune):
Indian jails are packed with people who are still being tried for crimes they may or may not have committed.
Many of them are in for petty crimes, often serving a longer jail term than they would have if they had actually been convicted.
There are more undertrials in the jails than the convicts at present.
In its last survey in 2002, the National Human Rights Commission found that 74 per cent of the prisoners in the country are undertrials.
The National Crime Records Bureau in 2003 has more conservative, but no less shocking, estimates of nearly 67 per cent undertrials.
The story holds true all over India, even in modern states and cities like Mumbai where a right to information activist asked for details of how many are trapped as prisoners of the law.
Shailesh Gandhi, the activist, found that Maharashtra has twice the number of undertrials than convicts.
In just one of Maharashtra's 38 prisons, Mumbai Central, as many as 26 undertrials have been there for over 10 years.
Across the state, 336 undertrials have already been in jail for over three years.
The culprit is not just legal delays. The situation becomes even more grim because of the indifference towards prisoners.
They are left in prison for years for minor glitches like case papers getting lost or eaten up by rodents. In other cases, there are no escorts to accompany them to court.
"There was a 23-year-old man who had been in jail for three years. First he was not produced in court when he should have. Then the judges were not available. Later there was no lawyer to speak for him. So nobody gave a damn and he remained in jail," said Yug Mohit Chaudhry, a lawyer.
What is worse is that thousands of undertrials remain in jail because they're uneducated and too poor to get lawyers or even pay bail.
"Most people are arrested for petty crimes like stealing a manhole cover. We had a case where a worker stole a vada pav Rs 2 because he hadn't been paid. He was in jail for six months," said Vijay Hiremath from the India Centre for Human Rights and Law.
"The problem often is the high bail amount. The rich can pay, but the poor have no choice. They can't hire lawyers and even the most elementary legal aid. So they end up staying in jail even though there's no evidence on record".
It's ironic that in a country where the powerful routinely get away with bail even in serious crimes, the poor languish in jails for years for petty stuff. (END)
Under trial Prisoners in Kerala Jails
Torture and fabrication of cases are closely linked with the fate of Under trial prisoners in Kerala. In attempting to save offenders for obvious reasons, the police implicate innocent people and impose any amount of cruelty and torture on them until a 'confession' is extracted. The evil axis between some police officers and Hindutva forces in Kerala is another cause of communally targetted torture and political riots in jails. Death of a CPI (M) convict in one of the central jails in Kerala, was done by an RSS convict. It proves the strong bondage of Hindutva forces with some police officers and their proximity in prisons.
From May 2003, 137 under trial prisoners have been denied bail in a single case alone, which is t he Marad revenge killings of May, 2003. All of this under trials are belongs to Muslim minority community and some of them are severely sick. Out of 148 accused in this case, 2 are absconding and 6 recieved bail. Surprisingly, most among these under trial prisoners were not even directly linked with the killings. Eventually, statistics shows that hindutva factor in police forces prevented formal legal action against the accused of 2002 Marad killings.
The chargesheets against the accused involved in Marad 2002 killings were filed only after the revenge killings of 2003. A total of 392 persons figured as accused in 102 cases registered in 2002, of whom many in more than one case. Among these accused, the party-wise affiliation are: 213 belonging to RSS/BJP; 78 CPI(M); 68 IUML; 06 of Indian National League (INL) ; and one of Congress. Eventually, the FIRs in all these 102 cases of Marad 2002 were filed on May 15.
2003 Marad killings was a pay-back murder for the communal violence a year earlier in the village which had left five persons killed (three of them belonging to the minority community) The incident caused nearly 500 Muslim families either left their homes for refugee camps or compelled to dispose their properties in Marad village.
( Output from CHRO legal cell )
Undertrials from Kerala in TamilNadu Jails
In deep South Kerala, protest is mounting against the Tamil Nadu government for keeping nine Keralites, including PDP Chairman Abdul Nazar Madani, in prison as under-trials since March 1998 for their alleged involvement in the Coimbatore serial bomb blasts. None of them was given parole or bail during the past eight years, nor were they kept under any preventive detention laws. They are not convicted prisoners, but mere under-trials. The whole scenario makes Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer’s famous ‘bail or jail’ Apex Court verdict of the late 1970s, stipulating jail only ‘as exception’ and favouring bail ‘as a rule’, a mockery even three decades after emergency.
(Source :Indian Currents, Issue 27, 3 July 2005)