76% prisoners are undertrials; ratio is highest in Delhi, J&K

76% prisoners are undertrials; ratio is highest in Delhi, J&K

India News

RAISING THE issue of the huge number of undertrial prisoners across the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday underlined that most of them are “poor or from ordinary families”, and appealed to states to release them on bail wherever possible. According to the latest available data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2020, about 76% of all prison inmates in the country were undertrials, of which about 68% were either illiterate or school dropouts.

Of the total 4,88,511 prison inmates, 3,71,848 were found to be undertrials. Among the undertrials, about 20% were Muslims, while about 73% were Dalits, tribals or OBCs.

Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) were found to have the highest ratio of undertrials in jails at 91%, followed by Bihar and Punjab at 85%, and Odisha at 83% (see chart).

About 27% of all undertrials were found to be illiterate, and 41% had dropped out before Class X.

While Muslims form 14% of India’s population, they accounted for about 20% of the total undertrials and 17% of all convicts.

Dalits, who form 16.6% of India’s population, accounted for about 21% of all undertrials and 21% of all convicts.

Tribals, who form 8.6% of India’s population, accounted for about 10% of all undertrials and 14% of all convicts.

OBCs, who form 41% of the total population (NSSO data), accounted for about 42% of the total undertrials and 37% of all convicts.

According to the data, about 30% of all undertrials remain in jail for over a year while 65% don’t get released before three months.

About 50% of all undertrials were charged with “offences against human body”, which includes crimes like murder, attempt to murder, rape, dowry deaths, kidnapping and assault among others. About 20% were charged with “offences against property”, which includes crimes like theft, burglary and housebreaking among others.

Of all undertrials, 2,83,556 (76%) were charged with offences under the Indian Penal Code, while the rest were charged under Special and Local Laws (SLL) which includes the Arms Act, Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act among others. About 60% of undertrials charged under SLL were held for liquor and drug offences.

“Languishing in jails for longer periods as an undertrial is basically a function of the inmate’s economic strength. Many inmates can’t even afford the bail amount, let alone hiring a lawyer… A poor man remains in jail for over a year without trial for minor offences such as theft,” said a senior IPS officer.

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