Despite the consensus around the need for reforms, Indian prisons remain in a poor state as reflected in various issues including overcrowding and violation of prisoners’ rights. Discuss in light of the recently formed Amitava Roy committee. What measures must be taken to address this issue? (15 marks)
- Introduce with the recent SC decision to form a committee on prison reforms
- Discuss the various issues in prisons including overcrowding, human rights violations etc.
- Suggest measures including reforming justice system, bail reforms, prison conditions etc.
- Conclude appropriately
The issue of the need for prison reforms in India has once again come to light after the Supreme Court formed a committee on prison reforms under former SC judge, Justice Amitava Roy to look into the entire gamut of reforms to the prison system. Though a person is denied personal liberty in prison, the higher judiciary has always maintained his/her other fundamental rights remain protected.
Issues with prisons:
While marginal reforms have taken place over the years, these have not been enough to ensure that prison conditions are in tune with human rights norms. Various issues with Indian prisons include:
- Overcrowding and large number of undertrials: There is a concern about growing numbers of prisoners and the woeful incapacity of governments to build more and larger prisons. As per NCRB data, there has been an average occupancy rate of 114% in most of the prisons.
- A major problem is that due to slow justice system, undertrials are making up about 70% of all inmates.
- For poor and marginalized, it is also difficult to meet the stringent demands of bail.
- Over 60 per cent of arrests were unnecessary, and magistrates are also seen to be issuing mechanical remand orders.
- Human rights violations: Prisoners also suffer the brutality and venality of prison officials, as well as at the hands of more violent fellow prisoners.
- Unsatisfactory living conditions: Prison structures in India are in dilapidated condition. Further, lack of space, poor ventilation, poor sanitation and hygiene make living conditions deplorable in Indian prisons.
- Shortage of staff: The ratio between the prison staff and the prison population is inadequate leading to rampant violence and other criminal activities inside the jails.
State will suffer from limited capacity to protect prisoners’ rights in overburdened prisons unless following reforms are undertaken:
- Reform justice system:
- In our justice system, delay remains the primary source of injustice. Expediting the trial process and revisiting criminal justice system through police reforms, amendments to IPC/ CrPC etc. are most important.
- Reform bail laws for undertrails to reduce crowding in prisons.
- Bail conditions must be eased and needless arrests must be avoided. A separate Bail law, on the lines of Bail Act UK, can be formulated.
- Reform the prison system to ensure the basic rights of the prisoners.
- Prisoners must be provided free and compulsory legal aid.
- CCTVs, improvements in staffing and infrastructure, more humane conditions, and safeguards for women all need to be taken up.
- The Union Home Ministry’s Model Prison Manual of 2016 must be followed.
- Formation of NPC: As Mulla committee suggested, a National Prison Commission may be formed to oversee the modernization of the prisons in India.
The Amitava Roy committee will look into all the issues and recommend measures for prison reform. It is hoped that the governments will implement them in earnest. The state is under an obligation to protect the residuary rights of prisoners after they surrender their liberty to a legal process.
Subjects : Current Affairs