Maharashtra CIC comes to the aid of undertrials

Orders jails in the state to put details of undertrials languishing in jails without a trial on the web


Jasleen Kaur | April 13, 2013

The Maharashtra state chief information commission on Saturday gave an order to the prison authorities to display on their website and also on notice boards details of undertrials who have undergone over 50 percent of the maximum prison term they are liable for.

While section 463A of CrPc says that the maximum period for which an undertrial can be detained without being released is not more than 50 percent of the maximum imprisonment specified for the charge he is booked for. The law says they can be released on personal bond if they cannot furnish bail. But in many cases the legal system does not follow the law and undertrials, most of whom are not convicted, suffer in prison.

Shailesh Gandhi, former information commissioner at CIC, on whose RTI application this order has been given, says that the order should go a long way in giving relief to people who were denied their freedom illegally. He said, “This order will facilitate the prisoners and other activists to get release of such undertrials. This order will be applicable in Maharashtra and I hope RTI activists will get such orders issued in all the states.”

A similar query by Gandhi, about six years ago had led to the release of some prisoners by the Bombay high court.

This order has been given in fulfilment of the prison department’s obligation under section 4 (1) (b) of the RTI Act. The commissioner used his powers under section 19 (8) of the RTI Act and has ordered that this information will have to be displayed on the website and also on the notice boards of the prisons, before May 12, 2013.

In India, it is estimated that more than 70 percent of the inmates in the jails are undertrials. The major problems faced by these inmates are not only of not getting a trial but that of not being granted bail. There are various statutes such as the Prisoners Act, 1894; the Model Manual Prison India, etc and various precedents which have been laid down in landmark cases which provide for the rights which these prisoners are entitled to. However, there is hardly any implementation of these rights.

Justice (retd) RS Sodhi, former high court judge, calls it a fantastic decision and says it should be implemented across India.

He adds, “This will make the system transparent and will bring in the accountability. In fact, I believe that the jail visitor should be personally responsible that not even a single undertrial is detained for more than what he or she is supposed to.”

Sodhi says it is a human right issue but is also the requirement of the law. “Law does not permit you to be in jail and I feel why even wait for completion of 50 percent of the charge when you are presumed to be innocent. People who are in charge of this duty are not performing it properly and even they should be booked for it. They are the ones who are violating the law. When the undertrial are in jail custody to an indefinite period, Article 21 of the Constitution is violated.”

Vrinda Grover, supreme court lawyer and specialist on human right issues, says people in charge of jail or the court know when an undertrial has completed 50 percent of the maximum imprisonment of the charge he is booked for. “But people who are in charge of this responsibility are not doing their duty. So when the order will be implemented, the system will become transparent. Anybody in the family or an activist would be able to see this and jail authorities and the court will be forced to perform their duty. This should be implemented in the entire country.”




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