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Centre Asks States to Review Cases of Undertrials
Undertrials lodged in jails for longer duration may soon be released from detention with the Centre directing all states to review such cases saying only the poor continues to be in jails without availing bail.

The Home Ministry told states and union territories that under 436A of CrPC, an undertrial prisoner completing half of the maximum period of imprisonment should be released by the court on his personal bond with or without sureties, with the exception of those involved in heinous crimes.

The advisory said although the percentage overcrowding in jails is steadily going down, even then 67 per cent of the inmates in various prisons are undertrials.

"Invariably it has been found that only the poor and indigent who have not been able to put up the surety are those who have continued to languish as undertrials for very long periods and that too for minor offences.

"The lack of adequate legal aid and a general lack of awareness about rights of arrestees are principal reasons for the continued detention of individuals accused of bailable offences, where bail is a matter of right and where an order of detention is supposed to be an aberration," it said.

The ministry said except those who are charged with offences punishable with the death sentence, no person can be detained in prison as an undertrial for a period exceeding the maximum possible sentence.

Maintaining that a disproportionate amount of prison space and resources are being invested on undertrial prisoners which is not sustainable, the Centre told the states and UTs to constitute a committee in every district with the district judge as chairman, and the district magistrate and district SP as members to meet every three months and review the cases.

Besides, the jail superintendent should conduct a survey of all cases where the undertrial prisoners have completed more than one-fourth of the maximum sentence. He should prepare a survey list and send the same to the District Legal Service Authority (DLSA).

The advisory said the prison authorities may educate undertrial prisoners on their right to bail and provide legal aid through empanelled lawyers of DLSA to cases presented for release on bail and reduction of bail amount.

The list should be made available to the non-official visitors as well as district magistrates/judges who conduct periodic inspections of the jails.

State home departments were also asked to develop management information system to ascertain the progress made jail-wise in this regard.
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