Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

PM calls for Prison Reforms and Repeal of Obsolete Laws


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Various committees mentioned

Mains level: Prison reforms in India


Prime Minister has suggested prison reforms to improve jail management and recommended repealing obsolete criminal laws, at the national annual police meet.

Issues with Prisons in India

  • Overcrowding: 149 jails in the country are overcrowded by more than 100% and that 8 are overcrowded by margins of a 500%. Overcrowding takes affects the already constrained prison resources and separation between different classes of prisoners difficult.
  • Under-trials: More than 65% of the prison population in India are under trials. The share of the prison population awaiting trial or sentencing in India is extremely high by international standards; for example, it is 11% in the UK, 20% in the US and 29% in France.
  • Lack of legal aid: Legal aid lawyers are poorly paid, and often over-burdened with cases. Further, there is no monitoring mechanism to evaluate the quality of legal aid representation in most states.
  • Miserable conditions:Prison structures in India are in dilapidated condition. Further, lack of space, poor ventilation, poor sanitation and hygiene make living conditions deplorable in Indian prisons.
  • Shortage of staff:The ratio between the prison staff and the prison population is approximately 1:7. In the absence of adequate prison staff, overcrowding of prisons leads to rampant violence and other criminal activities inside the jails.
  • Torture and Sexual abuse: Prisoners are subjected to inhuman psychological and physical torture. Sexual abuse of persons in custody is also part of the broader pattern of torture in custody.
  • Custodial deaths:In 2015, a total of 1,584 prisoners died in jails. A large proportion of the deaths in custody were from natural and easily curable causes aggravated by poor prison conditions. Further, there have been allegations of custodial deaths due to torture
  • Underpaid and unpaid labor: Labor is extracted from prisoners without paying proper wages.
  • Discrimination:According to Humans Rights Watch, a “rigid” class system exists in Indian prisons. On the other hand, socio-economically disadvantaged prisoners are deprived of basic human dignity.
  • Inadequate security measures and management: Poor security measures and prison management often leads to violence among inmates and resultant injury and in some cases death.
  • Lack of mental healthcare: In prison the problem of the overcrowding, poor sanitary facilities, lack of physical and mental activities, lack of decent health care, increase the likelihood of health problems. Further, mental health care has negligible focus in Indian prisons.
  • Colonial system:Absence of reformative approach in the Indian prison system has not only resulted in ineffective integration with society but also has failed to provide productive engagement opportunities for prisoners after their release

SC Judgements in this regard

  • Through a number of judgements {like Maneka Gandhi case(Right to life and personal with dignity), Ramamurthy vs. State of Karnataka (on conditions of prisons) Prem Sankar Shukla vs. Delhi Administration (no handcuffing).
  • The Supreme has upheld three broad principles regarding imprisonment and custody.
  1. A person in prison does not become a non-person;
  2. A person in prison is entitled to all human rights within the limitations of imprisonment
  3. There is no justification for aggravating the suffering already inherent in the process of incarceration.

Major legislations for prison reforms

  • The Prisons Act, 1894:It contains various provisions relating to health, employment, duties of jail officers, medical examination of prisoners, prison offenses etc.
  • Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950– The Act deals with the transfer of a prisoner from state to another state
  • Repatriation of Prisoners Act, 2003:The act enables the transfer of foreign prisoners to the country of their origin to serve the remaining part of their sentence. It also enables the transfer of prisoners of Indian origin convicted by a foreign court to serve their sentence in India
  • Model Prison Manual 2016:It aims at bringing in basic uniformity in laws, rules and regulations governing the administration of prisons and the management of prisoners across all the states and UTs in India
  • Legal service Authority Act, 1987:According to the law, a person in custody is entitled to free legal aid.

Committees and Recommendations

Various Committees and Commissions have been constituted by the State Governments as well as the Government of India to study and make suggestions for improving the prison conditions and administration.

(1) Mulla Committee, 1983

The major recommendations of the committee included:

  • The setting up of a National Prison Commission to oversee the modernization of the prisons in India
  • Putting a ban on clubbing together juvenile offenders with the hardened criminals in prison and enacting a comprehensive and protective legislation for the security and protective care of delinquent juveniles
  • Segregation of mentally ill prisoners to a mental asylum
  • The conditions of prison should be improved by making adequate arrangements for food, clothing, sanitation and ventilation etc.
  • Lodging of under trial in jails should be reduced to bare minimum and they should be kept separate from the convicted prisoners

(2) Krishna Iyer Committee, 1987

  • The committee mandated to study the condition of women prisoners in the country.
  • It recommended induction of more women in the police force in view of their special role in tackling women and child offenders.

(3) National Policy on Prison Reforms and Correctional Administration, 2007

  • In 2005, the Government of India constituted a high-powered committee under the chairmanship of the Director General, the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D).
  • This committee used the reports of Justice Mulla Committee Report & Justice Krishna Iyer Committee and made several additional and new recommendations.

(4) Justice Amitava Roy Committee, 2018

  • In 2018 the Supreme Court constituted Amitava Roy Committee to look into the aspect of jail reforms across the country and make recommendations on several aspects, including overcrowding in prisons.
  • It recommended- Special fast-track courts should be set up to deal exclusively with petty offences which have been pending for more than 5 years.
  • Further, accused persons who are charged with petty offences and that granted bail, but who are unable to arrange surety should be released on a Personal Recognizance (PR) Bond.

Steps taken

  • Modernization of Prisons scheme: The scheme for modernization of prisons was launched in 2002-03 with the objective of improving the condition of prisons, prisoners and prison personnel. Various components included the construction of new jails, repair and renovation of existing jails, improvement in sanitation and water supply etc.
  • E-Prisons Project: It aims to introduce efficiency in prison management through digitization.
  • Open Prisons: The All-India Committee on Jail Reform constituted in 1980 recommended the government to set up and develop open prisons in each state and UT similar to the Sanganer open camp in Rajasthan.

Way Forward

  • Urgent repair: There is a dire need to address the issue of overcrowding in Indian jails. Further, sincere efforts should be made to improve living conditions which include better sanitation and hygiene, and adequate food and clothing.
  • Address health concerns: There should be an urgent focus on addressing health issues and ensuring access to medical care among prisoners. Women’s health needs, covering mental, physical, sexual and reproductive health, require particular attention.
  • Reform offenders: Efforts should be made to reform offenders in the social stratification by giving them appropriate correctional treatment.
  • Training and rehabilitation: Initiatives should be taken to impart vocational training to prisoners and ensure proper rehabilitation and social inclusion after release
  • Legal aid: The government must take initiative to improve the conditions of under-trial prisoners which can be achieved by speeding of the trial procedure, simplification of the bail procedure and providing effective legal aid
  • More open prisons: Open prison as an effective institution for the rehabilitation of offenders has been highlighted by Supreme Court as late as 1979 in the Dharambeer v State of U.P case. Open prisons should be encouraged as correctional facilities.


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