ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Prisons and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The vulnerability of our criminal justice system stands exposed in the second COVID-19 wave.

 

Vijay Raghavan writes:

India’s prisons are overcrowded with nearly 70% undertrial prisoners. A large number are languishing in prisons without quality legal aid, and lack of family support. As per Prison Statistics India Report 2019, there were 4.78 lakh inmates in around 1,300 prisons in the country. Most of these prisoners hail from economically poor backgrounds, with more than 85% from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Other Backward Class and Muslim communities. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, COVID-19 positive cases in prisons became a cause for worry. In March 2020, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the situation in the prisons and passed several signi­ficant orders, which led to the constitution of high powered committees (HPCs) at the state level, headed by the chairperson of the State Legal Services Authority, to decide on categories of prisoners who could be released on temporary bail and parole to reduce overcrowding of prisons. It also passed orders for the Under Trial Review Committees headed by a district judge to meet every week to identify undertrials who could be released on bail or personal recognisance bond, as per criteria in a standard operating procedure (SOP) issued by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

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Updated On : 22nd May, 2021

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