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Report No. 277

Chapter- 2

Data and Analysis

2.1 The National Crime Records Bureau's (NCRB) annual statistical report called the 'Prison Statistics India' (PSI) contains information with respect to prisons, prisoners, and prison infrastructure. According to PSI 201513, there were 4,19,623 prisoners across the country14; out of which, 67.2% i.e. 2,82,076 were undertrials (i.e. people who have been committed to judicial custody pending investigation or trial by a competent authority)15; substantially higher than the convict population i.e. 1,34,168 (32.0%):

Source: National Crime Relations Bureau

2.2 A review of the data in PSI shows that across the country as well as in States, undertrial prisoners continue to be higher in numbers than the convict population. The States with the highest percentage of undertrials were Meghalaya- 91.4%, Bihar- 82.4%, Manipur-81.9%, Jammu & Kashmir-81.5%, Nagaland- 79.6%, Odisha- 78.8%, Jharkhand 77.1%, and Delhi- 76.7%.16 This percentage of undertrials (of the total number of prisoners) has remained consistently high over the preceding decade of 2005- 2015:

Source: National Crime Relations Bureau

2.3 In terms of the State-wise statistics, the maximum number of undertrial prisoners in various jails across the country at the end of the year 2015 were reported from Uttar Pradesh- 62,669, followed by Bihar- 23,424, then Maharashtra- 21,667, Madhya Pradesh- 21,300, West Bengal- 15,342, Rajasthan- 14,225, Jharkhand- 13,588, Punjab- 13,046, Odisha- 12,584, Delhi- 10,879 and Haryana-10,489.

2.4 With respect to the issue of miscarriage of justice under consideration here, the period of incarceration of the undertrials also needs to be taken into consideration. The data shows that 25.1% (70,616) of the total undertrials spent more than a year in prison; 17.8% (50,176) spend up to 1 year in prison as undertrials, 21.9% (61,886) of the undertrials were in prison for 3 to 6 months, and 35.2% (99,398) undertrials spent up to 3 months in prison. The complete percentage breakup of 'period of detention' of the undertrials is as follows:

Source: National Crime Relations Bureau

2.5 Also to be noted is the data of release, which shows that during the year 2015, 82,585 prisoners were released by acquittal, and 23,442 prisoners were released in appeal.17

2.6 Further, according to the information compiled by NCRB (cited in the answer by Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Shri Hansraj Gangaram Ahir in the Rajya Sabha to the Unstarred Question No. 550), during the year 2016, the number of undertrials increased by more than 10,000 (from 2015), recorded at 2,93,058; while the number of convicts increased by a little over 1000, recorded at 1,35,683.18

2.7 An international study has noted that India, with the aforementioned 67.2%, has one of the highest undertrial populations in the world.19 It is noted to be the 16th highest in the world (out of a total of 217 countries);20 and the fifth highest in Asia - after Pakistan, Cambodia, Philippines and Bangladesh.21

2.8 Such large number of undertrials (more than the number of convicts) year after year and their long detention periods show that undertrials spent a substantial period of time awaiting trials/ judicial determination of their case. This delay and waiting becomes a graver miscarriage of justice when the person is wrongfully accused and incarcerated pending trial/proceedings, which he should not have been subjected to in the first place.

2.9 While the data does not specifically highlight the number of undertrials wrongfully incarcerated or acquitted pursuant to a wrongful prosecution or conviction; these numbers, nonetheless, press upon the importance of the issue and the urgency for a statutory remedial framework to provide relief to these victims of the system.

2.10 The Apex Court, taking note of this dreadful state of affairs, expressed anguish over the plight of accused persons languishing in prisons for unjustifiable extended periods of time, in Thana Singh v. Central Bureau of Narcotics22, observing: The laxity with which we throw citizens into prison reflects our lack of appreciation for the tribulations of incarceration; the callousness with which we leave them there reflects our lack of deference for humanity. It also reflects our imprudence when our prisons are bursting at their seams. For the prisoner himself, imprisonment for the purposes of trial is as ignoble as imprisonment on conviction for an offence since the damning finger and opprobrious eyes of society draw no difference between the two.

Wrongful Prosecution (Miscarriage of Justice) - Legal Remedies Back

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