Among India’s jails, spread across 28 states and seven union territories, Delhi’s Tihar prison has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest percentages of undertrials. This makes the job of ensuring discipline among inmates particularly difficult.
“Undertrials are reckoned to be less rule abiding than convicts,” said a Tihar jail official, requesting anonymity.
Till the end of last year, out of Tihar’s total population of 12,113, there were 8,887 undertrials - a staggering 73.37%, said the official.
In Tihar prison’s sub-jail three, an undertrial, Ram Singh who was facing rape and murder charges, allegedly committed suicide on Monday morning that brought it under the public scrutiny.
“The national average of undertrial inmates in Indian jails was 64.7%, which is much lower than the current percentage in Tihar prison,”said the official. The percentage of undertrials was around 27% in Madhya Pradesh’s jails, around 28% in Gujarat and around 62% in Maharashtra, as per the statistics provided by National Crime Records Bureau.
Explaining the lack of discipline among the undertrial inmates, the official said, “There are hardly any punitive measures effective enough to deter an undertrial from breaking rules inside the prison and they are always confident of going out on bail.”
“The convicts, on the other hand, are considerably rule abiding and reliable,” he said.
According to him, there are enough reasons why convicts are more agreeable to leading a rule-bound life inside the jail’s high walls.
“For jail officials, there are many sops to persuade, convince a convict with to remain disciplined, like the grant of paroles and furloughs that mean a lot to them,” he said. According to the sources, the jail administration’s grant of access to a convict to meet his family or relatives and deciding on his or her mandatory labour work also acts as leverage.
“Among those who break the rules, whether it’s about sneaking in banned articles or bullying activities, we have seen that the culprits are often undertrials,” said another prison source.