Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri G. KISHAN REDDY, in a written reply to a question regarding undertrial prisoners, said that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) compiles prison statistics in its publication “Prison Statistics India” and as of 2017, a total of 13,143 under trial prisoners have confinement of 3 to 5 years. He added that no survey had, however, been conducted in this regard by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Regarding the well-being of undertrial prisoners, the Minister said that ‘Prisons’ and ‘persons detained therein’ are State subjects under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India and thus, administration and management of prisons is the responsibility of State Governments. He noted that however, the Ministry of Home Affairs had taken various steps to address the issues relating to undertrial prisoners. Section 436A has been inserted in the Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides for release of an under-trial prisoner on bail after undergoing detention for a period extending up to one-half of the maximum period of imprisonment specified for an offence under any law (not being an offence for which the punishment of death has been specified as one of the punishments under that law). He also said that the E-prisons portal provides the facility to State Jail authorities to access the data of inmates in a quick and easy mode which can assist them in identifying inmates whose cases are due for consideration by the Under Trial Review Committees and take up their cases appropriately.
The Minister also noted that State Legal Services Authority have also established Legal Service Clinics and have deployed Para Legal Volunteers at Police Stations, Front Offices, Jails and Child Welfare Centres with a view to provide free legal assistance to persons in need. He further noted that on directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) had prepared a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Under-Trial Review Committees and this SOP was circulated by the Ministry of Home Affairs to States and UTs on 18th February 2019. He added that the Model Prison Manual 2016 circulated to all States and UTs also has a Chapter on ‘Legal Aid’ which provides details of the facilities that may be provided to undertrials viz. legal defence, interview with lawyer, signing of Vakalatnama, application to Courts for legal aid at Government cost etc.