Sukesh Kumar, a 25-year-old Class 9 dropout, was sent to Tihar Jail four months ago and had come prepared to stay there for several years before his case could get decided by the trial court. Charged by the police under the Arms Act for possessing an illegal dagger, Kumar faced a jail term of up to three years if found guilty and convicted by the court.
On Saturday, however, a special court that held his trial at a courtroom in the jail released him, scotching his worst fears. Kumar’s trial lasted barely a few minutes, just like that of 19 other undertrials at the jail whose cases were similarly decided by the Special Court for Disposal of Petty Cases (SCDPC) today. To earn their freedom, the 20 undertrials including Kumar, had to confess to their crimes in the court and record their testimonies as per the SCDPC’s eligibility criteria.
The SCDPC, according to the jail’s law officer, Sunil Gupta, was set up under the direction of the Supreme Court five years ago to decide cases to “reduce backlog of pending cases and number of undertrials.” Tihar Jail is the only central prison facility in the country to have a fast-track court like the SCDPC. The 20 undertrials were facing charges for petty offences that are punishable by a maximum jail term of three years, as per rules that also require an inmate to have completed a minimum of two months in jail.
The court was presided over by a metropolitan magistrate. "Most who get released under this court are usually not hopeful of getting any government job and do not mind confessing to their crime and getting convicted,” said a jail source requesting anonymity.
Till now, the SCPDC has released around 4,941 undertrials at the jail. It holds court every month at a specially-built “courtroom” at the jail’s main building. The list of cases to be heard by the SCDPC has to be vetted and approved by Delhi’s chief metropolitan magistrate after making due enquiries.
“The chief metropolitan magistrate seeks the concerned case files of the list’s inmates from their trial courts, “ said Gupta. The court also seeks report on such inmates from the Delhi Crime Branch in order to weed out the habitual offenders among them.