From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NALSA
Mains level : Need for prison reforms in India
Legal services institutions have intervened to release 42,529 undertrial prisoners as well as 16,391 convicts on parole to de-congest prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic, a report from NALSA has said.
Practice question for mains:
Q. More than a century-old system of prisons in India needs urgent repair. Discuss with context to the increase in the cases of undertrials.
Decongesting the prison
- There are 1,339 prisons with approximately 4, 66,084 inmates in India with the rate of occupancy at Indian prisons at 117.6% (a/c to NCRB).
- The report stated that 243 undertrial prisoners had been granted bail and 9,558 persons in remand had been given legal representation across the country.
- It said the highest number of undertrial prisoners released was 9,977 in Uttar Pradesh, followed by 5,460 in Rajasthan and 4,547 in Tamil Nadu, 3,698 in Punjab and 3,400 in Maharashtra.
- Note: Prisons/ Prisoners/persons detained is a State subject under Entry 4 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India.
Hardships of the undertrials
- Right to a speedy trial is an integral part of the principles of fair trial and is fundamental to the international human rights discourse.
- In Indian jails, most of the prisoners are undertrials, which are confined to the jails until their case comes to a definite conclusion.
- In most of the cases, they end up spending more time in the jail than the actual term that might have had been awarded to them had the case been decided on a time and, assuming, against them.
- Plus, the expenses and pain and agony of defending themselves in courts is worse than serving the actual sentence. Undertrials are not guilty till convicted.
- In 2017, the Law Commission of India had recommended that undertrials who have completed a third of their maximum sentence for offences attracting up to seven years of imprisonment be released on bail.
- National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) was formed on 9 November 1995 under the authority of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987.
- Its purpose is to provide free legal services to eligible candidates and to organize Lok Adalats for the speedy resolution of cases.
- The CJI is patron-in-chief of NALSA while second seniormost judge of Supreme Court of India is the Executive-Chairman.
- There is a provision for similar mechanism at state and district level also headed by Chief Justice of High Courts and Chief Judges of District courts respectively.
- The prime objective of NALSA is speedy disposal of cases and reducing the burden of the judiciary.