2nd November 2019 The Hindu Editorials Notes- Mains Sure Shot
Question – Enumerate the condition of prisons in India and state the ways to deal with it.(250 words)
Context – The NCRB report.
- Management of prisons is the responsibility of the state government, as per the seventh schedule of the constitution.
Issues concerning prison’s in India:
- There prisons in India face three long-standing problems:
- Understaffing and,
- The outcome of these is subhuman living conditions, poor hygiene, and violent clashes between inmates and authorities.
- According to NCRB’s “Prison Statistics India – 2017” report, Indian jails continue to be overcrowded and congested.
- The average occupancy rate is 115% of their capacity and most of the prisoners are undertrials. Chhattisgarh and Delhi are among the top three in the list with an occupancy ratio of more than double the capacity.
- In 16 of the 28 states covered, occupancy rate was higher than 100% in states and UT’s such as UP (165%), Chhattisgarh (157.2%), Delhi (151.2%), and, Sikkim (140.7%).
- The prime reason is the increasing number of undertrials in the prisons. Sixty seven percent of the people in Indian jails are undertrials – those detained in prisons during trial, investigation or inquiry but not convicted of any crime in a court of law. The share of the prison population awaiting trial or sentencing in India is extremely high by international standards; for instance, it is 11% in the UK, 20% in the US and 29% in France.
- In absolute numbers, UP had the highest number of undertrials (62,669), followed by Bihar (23,424) and Maharashtra (21,667). In Bihar, 82% of prisoners were undertrials, the highest among states.
- Despite the SC and other institutions regularly raising the issue of jail reforms and decongestion of jails in India, the issue remains highly overlooked.
- With over a staggering 3.1 crore cases pending in various courts of the country as on March 31, 2016, jails across the country will remain overcrowded in the absence of any effective systemic intervention. Nearly 43% of the undertrial population accounting for roughly 1.22 lakh undertrials remains detained for more than six months to more than five years by the end of 2014.
- This also indicates that the majority of them are poor and unable to to execute bail bonds or provide sureties.
- Many of them have spent more years in prison than the actual term they would have served had they been convicted.
- Women’s jails are relatively less crowded, with an occupancy rate of 55.9 across the country. However, three states have an occupancy rate of over 100 percent — West Bengal (142.04 percent), Maharashtra (119.8 percent) and Bihar (115.1 percent).
- Though the occupancy rate has come down from 140% in 2007 to 1115% in 2017, only a few states have built more jails or increasing capacity in prisons in line with the changes in inmate population. While Tamil Nadu has reduced its prison occupancy rate by increasing the number of jails, states ike UP continue to have high occupancy rates because of increased inmate population despite a relative increase in prison capacity.
The recommendations of the Law Commission of India:
- To deal with the problem of overcrowding of jails, the Law Commission of India in its 268th report suggested some reforms.
- It said that inconsistencies in the bail system was one of the key reasons for overcrowding in prisons.
- It suggested that expediting (make happen sooner) the trial process for such prisoners is the most important thing that needs to be done. But apart from this another thing needs to be done to decongest i.e. granting relief to undertrials.
- The commission recommended that those held for offences that come with punishment of up to seven years of imprisonment should be released on completing one-third of that period and those charged with offences that attract longer jail terms, after they complete half the period.
- And those who have completed the whole period as undertrials, the period undergone should be considered for remission.
- It also recommended that the police should avoid needless arrests, while magistrates should refrain from mechanical remand orders.
- Almost 33% of requirement of prison staff is vacant.
- For example, Delhi’s Tihar jail ranks third in terms of a severe staff crunch. The manpower recruited inside this prison is almost 50% short of its actual requirement. As the nation’s capital, Delhi has the most over-crowded jails and suffers from acute shortage of prison guards and senior supervisory staff.
- States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand have the most scantily guarded jails, seeing over 65% staff vacancies among jailers, prison guards and supervisory levels.
- In the absence of adequate prison staff, overcrowding of prisons leads to rampant violence and other criminal activities inside the jails.
- In 2015, on an average, four prisoners died every day. A total of 1,584 prisoners died in jails, 1,469 of which were natural deaths and the remaining 115 were attributed to unnatural causes.
- Underfunded :
- The management of jails being the responsibility of the state government usually remains underfunded which adds to the problem of understaffed.
- In the state governments that are economically less advantages the condition is worst.
- It is recommended that the recommendations of the Law Commission should be should be considered at the earliest.
- Because holding undertrials for too long without a just trial process in overcrowded prisons that suffer problems of hygiene and management and discipline, is one that is ripe for recidivism.
- There is a greater chance of prisoners hardening as criminals rather than them reforming and getting rehabilitated in such jail conditions.