Home / Editorial / Undertrials who have served half of their maximum terms to be freed: Kejriwal Effect

Undertrials who have served half of their maximum terms to be freed: Kejriwal Effect

NEW DELHI: In what could lead to freedom for thousands of undertrials languishing in jail for years on end, the Narendra Modi government has initiated steps to release prisoners who have served at least half the sentence they would have been awarded if convicted, irrespective of the progress of their trial. However, this largesse will not extend to those who have been held for offences which specify death penalty or life sentence.

Undertrials who have served half of their maximum terms to be freed: Kejriwal Effect

 
Sources said the law ministry has conveyed to the home ministry that there is no legal hurdle in the release of undertrials and no amendment is required in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) for this purpose. 

It is estimated that of the 3.81 lakh prisoners across the country, about 2.54 lakh, or two-third, are undertrials. Many are said to have spent more time in jail than the actual sentence they might have got had they been convicted for the crime they were arrested for.

The release of undertrials on personal bond is seen as an important move towards judicial reforms, which would also help in decongesting prisons. It is being touted as one of the major initiatives of the Modi government in its first year in office, and a lot of emphasis is being laid on its early execution.

The ministries of law and home affairs are closely coordinating on the matter. Sources said home minister Rajnath Singh and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will meet on Monday to discuss how states can be asked to act upon this plan.

The issue was taken up at a preliminary meeting on August 26 when minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju was called for a briefing in the law ministry in which Prasad and law secretaries were present.

Sources said the law ministry has conveyed to the home ministry that there is no legal hurdle in the release of undertrials and no amendment is required in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) for this purpose.

Special panel to review cases of undertrials

The home ministry has been asked to write to all chief secretaries of states to ensure that a review is carried out on all undertrials and they are released under Section 436A of CrPC if they have completed half the sentence they would have been awarded if convicted.

Under the previous dispensation, after Section 436A was inserted in CrPC, the Centre had written to state governments and high courts to set up review committees in all districts but the order was not implemented due to lack of monitoring.


The Tihar Jail in New Delhi. (TOI file photo by Ashwani Nagpal) 

The review panel was to be headed by the district judge and have the district magistrate and the superintendent of police as its members. It is mandatory for the committee to meet every three months and review cases relating to undertrial prisoners and take necessary steps to reduce overcrowding of jails and release those who have been in custody for petty crimes or for a long time due to delay in their trials.

Sources said the home ministry, in a fresh communication to be sent shortly to all chief secretaries, will ask for a status report of all such review committees, and a directive to implement this decision in districts where such committees are not in place. The chief justices of high courts, along with the state administrations, will be requested to ensure that the directive is implemented in all districts.

Check Also

Starting Feb 1, GST council approves e-way bills to easily ferry goods across states

Ferrying goods across states will now get quicker with the Goods and Service Tax (GST) …