NEW DELHI: In a bid to decongest jails that are burdened with undertrials, the Ministry of Law and Justice is planning to bring in sweeping prison reforms, including changes in the bail process.
“We are in the process of changing the bail procedure as recommended by the Law Commission so that the present infrastructure of jails can be managed well. Unnecessary pre-trial confinement should be minimised as confinement is detrimental to the person accused of an offence who is kept in custody, and imposes unproductive burden on the state. It can have an adverse impact on future criminal behaviour,” a law ministry official said.
The law panel has suggested that undertrials accused of crimes carrying a punishment of seven years in jail should be released on bail if they have spent one-third of that time or two-and-a-half years behind bars while on trial. Those who were accused of crimes which attract over seven years in jail be released on bail if they had spent half of the term behind bars on trial, it said.
“In the wake of increasing crime rates, insufficient infrastructure, lack of modernisation of investigative machinery and various other challenges, the bail system cannot be fashioned into a panacea to ensure a responsive criminal justice system in India,” the official added.
According to 2015 prison statistics, there are currently 1,401 jails in the country — from central jails, district jails, sub-jails, women jails, open jails to special jails. India’s prison occupancy stands at 114 per cent.
According to an estimate, prisons have an approximate staff strength of 53,009 to take care of 4,19,623 inmates which amounts to one jail official per eight inmates.