UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
NCRB Data on Prisons – Marginalisation of Communities
- The latest (2019) data on prisons released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that Dalits, tribals, and Muslims continue to be jailed in numbers disproportionate to their share in the total population of India, according to a report in The Indian Express.
- The NCRB data shows that while people from Scheduled Castes (SCs) accounted for 21.7% of convicts and 21% of undertrials; those from Scheduled Tribes (STs) accounted for 13.6% of convicts and 10.5% of undertrials; and Muslims, 16.6% of convicts and 18.7% of undertrials.
Historic marginalisation of these communities:
- Their socioeconomic indicators are weak
- They are unable to access opportunities for livelihoods
- Their encounters with the legal machinery are common and often brutal
- If they are implicated in cases, even ordinary crimes, they often have to battle discriminatory attitudes and are unable to access effective legal support.
Plight of prisoners:
- The report tells that at the end of 2016, there were 4,33,033 people in prison; of them 68% were undertrials, or people who have yet to be found guilty of the crimes they are accused of.
- India’s under-trial population remains among the highest in the worldand more than half of all undertrials were detained for less than six months in 2016.
- This suggests that the high proportion of undertrials in the overall prisonpopulation may be the result of unnecessary arrests and ineffective legal aid during remand hearings.
- In 2016, out of 1,557 under trialsfound eligible for release under Section 436A, only 929 were released.
- Moreover, India’s prisons are overcrowded with an occupancy ratio of 14% more than the capacity.
- The relevance of prisonvisits is underlined by the number of “unnatural” deaths in prisons, which doubled between 2015 and 2016, from 115 to 231.
- The report states that there was only one mental health professional for every 21,650 prisoners in 2016, with only six States and one Union Territory having psychologists/psychiatrists.
What is needed:
- Access to justice to these communities: There is a need to change this discriminatory structure, an immediate priority must be providing urgent legal help. A State-run free legal aid system was introduced in 1995 with the establishment of the Legal Services Authorities Act. But, legal experts suggest that the system has been ineffective because of daunting procedures, low remuneration from the State, and corruption discourage lawyers from taking up these cases. Ensuring access to justice must be the first step to correcting the imbalance in India’s prisons.
- The Law Commissionin a report on prison reforms, seeks to improve on a provision introduced in 2005 to grant relief to thousands of prisoners languishing without trial and to decongest India’s overcrowded prison
- Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedurestipulates that a prisoner shall be released on bail on personal bond if he or she has undergone detention of half the maximum period of imprisonment specified for that offence.
- The Law Commission recommends jail release for,
- Those detained for an offence that would attract up to seven years’ imprisonmentbe released on completing one-third of that period.
- Those charged with offences attracting a longer jail term, after they complete half of that period.
- For those who had spent the whole period as undertrials, the period undergone may be considered for remission.
- Introducing transparencyin the functioning of the prisons and holding the prison officials accountable for their actions is needed.
- Providing necessary health infrastructure with sufficient medical professionals is essential to improve the prisoners condition.
- Necessary legal aidshould be given to all the under-trials. Random and periodic visits should be conducted regularly.
- Social Audit and evaluation of prisonsystem could be done by NGOs working in prison
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