Believe it or not! Rajasthan jails are stuffed with more non-convicts than convicts, thanks to pending court trials which are keeping the ‘accused’ in confinement against the Supreme Court directives, according to an official report.
In legal parlance, an undertrial is a person charged with a crime to be decided by a court trial. “The court may declare him innocent or guilty. This gives him 50% chance of release and hence such confinement is against his rights,” allege human rights activists.
The report named Prison Statistics India 2013 released by the National Crime Records Bureau, reveals that two out of every three persons in Rajasthan jails are undertrials and half of them age between 18 and 30 years.
The statistics show that 119 Rajasthan jails have 13,246 undertrials, 443 of them women. Nearly 96 % of the undertrials are men and 30% of them have been in jail for more than three months (as of 31 December 2013).
Former IG (Prisons) Radhakant Saxena, who has also been director on the Justice Mulla Committee for Prison Reforms in 1980, thinks the reason for the rising numbers of undertrials is “non-liberal, conservative and very discreet” use of provisions of bail.
“Many people who commit bailable offences and should get bail from the police stations itself are also in jail. Not even that, many people with petty offences which are not punishable for more than two years are also in prisons. What is the point of keeping them in jail?” questions Saxena, who is also a consultant with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
People’s Union for Civil Liberties general secretary Kavita Srivastava calls it “a complete breakdown of criminal justice system”. “Police and courts both are responsible for this. Undertrials miss one out of every three hearings because there is not sufficient force to take them to court.
Courts are responsible for not granting bails,” she says.
All the jails in the state can keep not more than 16,622. But they are overstuffed with 19,293 inmates pushing the occupancy rate to 116.1%. However, Rajasthan is good to women convicts who show behaviour conforming to the prescribed rules for their transfer to open prisons.
It is only the second state in the country, after Maharashtra, to have women convicts in open jails, where prisoners engage in agricultural activities.
The NCRB numbers also provide the only insight into the number of people on death row. At the end of 2013, three persons in Rajasthan had been sentenced to death and were awaiting either legal relief or the execution of sentence.