In India, the problem of undertrials languishing in prisons for years has been a matter of great concern. This issue has been highlighted time and again by various stakeholders, including the President of India. As per the data available on the National Judicial Data Grid, around 69% of the prison inmates in India are undertrials.
These undertrial prisoners spend years in jail while their trial is pending, which is a violation of their fundamental rights. The situation is worse for economically and socially backward individuals, who are unable to afford legal representation and are often unaware of their rights. Speaking on this issue, President Droupadi Murmu has emphasised the need to ensure that undertrial prisoners get access to justice and that their cases are disposed of expeditiously.
She has also highlighted the need for legal aid for the poor and vulnerable sections of society. The President’s concern is in line with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which mandate that trials be conducted expeditiously. Section 309 of the Code provides that every inquiry or trial should be conducted as expeditiously as possible, and in particular, the examination and cross-examination of witnesses should be consecutive.
The judiciary has also taken up the issue of prisoners awaiting trial who are still in jail. The Supreme Court of India, in its landmark judgement in Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, directed that all undertrial prisoners who have completed half of the maximum sentence for the offence they are charged with should be released on bail.
In conclusion, the issue of undertrial persons languishing in jails for years is a serious problem, and it requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders to ensure access to justice and a speedy trial for all.
Awarded with the Best Delegate award by the Haryana Government and interned under the supreme court bar association’s vice president in the first year of his college. Also worked in the fraud prevention policy of a legal service platform ‘Lark’. Ansh is a quick learner, M&A, IP Law and Taxation enthusiast.