Image used for representative purposes. (Photo: Pixabay)
New Delhi: According to a report titled ‘Guilty Till Proven Innocent’, India ranks second among Commonwealth countries after Bangladesh with the highest share of pre-trial detainees with 76.1 per cent, while Bangladesh has 80 per cent. by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. At the same time, the NCRB data released in December 2021 shows that the number of undertrials in jails in India for more than five years was 7,128.
Suhas Chakma, Director of Rights and Risk Analysis Group, says that those who are kept under trial for a long time are mostly poor and illiterate or who are arrested under terror charges and detained as alleged foreigners. is taken. “People remain in custody for years, even decades, because they are poor or have been arrested under terrorist charges, because such cases take time to end. Those who have been detained as alleged foreigners continue to remain in detention due to non-acceptance of them by the Government of India, or non-acceptance of them by the country of origin.”
One of those terror charges is the Unlawful Prevention of Activities Act (1967) (UAPA), which has been cited as a draconian law with very stringent provisions for granting bail. Under this, those accused remain in prison for years without being found guilty. One such example is that of Bashir Ahmed Baba, who was charged under the UAPA after being arrested in Gujarat in February 2010, and remained in jail till July 2021.
Recently, a journalist from Kashmir, Asif Sultan, who got bail in April this year after four years of imprisonment under the UAPA but was booked under the Public Safety Act. This strict law enforced in Kashmir allows authorities to detain a person for two years without trial.
NCRB data for 2020 shows that among undertrials who spent more than five years in confinement, Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of 2,877, followed by Delhi with 624.
For those who have spent 3-5 years in prison as under-trials, UP again topped the list with 5,248, followed by Maharashtra with 2,338. Altogether there were 16,603 who had spent those years in prison without a conviction.
Those who had spent 2-3 years in confinement stood at 7,504 in UP, followed by Maharashtra with 3,517 and West Bengal with 2,898. In all, 29,194 people are held in prisons not yet convicted of their crimes for 2-3 years.
The largest number of foreign undertrials were of Bangladeshi nationality with a total of 1,630 undertrials. West Bengal with a total of 1,183 were the most confined in the state, followed by Maharashtra with 139.
The nationality after Bangladeshis in the under-trials, who were the most imprisoned, was Nigerians, with a total of 615 incarcerated, Delhi had the highest number of 177 followed by Maharashtra at 145.
In Jammu and Kashmir, data shows that those who were detained for more than 5 years were 258, taking a total of 263 people between 3-5 years and 403 between 2-3 years Had gone.
The National Human Rights Commission had said that it has been continuously requesting that undertrials be released on bail, if they are entitled to it. “Studies have shown that undertrials often remain in jail as they are not produced in court due to lack of police protection. The situation is further aggravated by the slow rate of disposal of cases in the courts of law.”
Around 400 prisoners in Tihar Jail were granted bail by the courts, but they could not be released as they were not granted bail. The NHRC accordingly took up the matter with the Tihar Jail authorities as well as the Delhi Legal Aid Board. The latter appointed lawyers to study the cases of these prisoners. As a result of the efforts of the jail authorities and the Delhi Legal Aid Board, around 200 prisoners have been released so far.
Project 39A under National Law University, ‘State Legal Aid and Undertrial: Are There No Takers?’ Quoted in a paper titled. That data “shows, with all accompanying limitations, that over the 4 years overall, 2016 to 2019 period, only 7.91 percent of undertrial prisoners admitted to prison accessed the legal aid they deserved.”