//Friday: thousands of undertrials will get right to walk free

Friday: thousands of undertrials will get right to walk free

Machal Lalung in Assam was released after 54 yrs in prison. The new law brings hope to the others

NEW DELHI, JUNE 21:Beginning Friday, the nation can start getting rid of one of the worst blots in it's criminal justice system. Thousands of undertrials languishing in prison will be eligible for freedom from June 23, the date set for the implementation of the long-awaited amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The CrPC Amendment Act 2005 was notified today by the Ministry of Home Affairs. It’s being implemented exactly a year after President A P J Abdul Kalam gave his assent to the CrPC Bill on June 23, 2005.

Arguably, the most radical amendment is the insertion of a new Section (436A). This entitles an undertrial, other than those accused of an offence for which the death penalty is prescribed, to be released with or without sureties if he/she has been under detention for more than half the prescribed period of imprisonment. The new CrPC section also provides for release of undertrials who are detained beyond the maximum period of imprisonment provided for the alleged offence.

Undertrials who meet these criteria will now have to file fresh petitions in courts to be granted relief under this Section 436A.

While Law Ministry officials don’t have a specific number of how many undertrials will be eligible for release, Home Ministry estimates the figure to be as high as 50,000. According to the latest figures of the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), there are 2.23 lakh undertrials of the 3.22 lakh inmates in 1,135 prisons.

Law Secretary T K Vishwanathan told The Indian Express that the CrPc amendments were a step towards ‘‘de-criminalisation of the statute book and decongesting prisons.’’

Other important provisions which come into effect on Friday include a Directorate of Prosecution in states; prohibition of arrest of a woman after sunset and before sunrise except in exceptional circumstances and release of an accused of a bailable offence on execution of a bond if he cannot furnish surety.