“The poor, illiterate and weaker sections in our society in our country suffer day in and day out in their struggle for survival and look to those who have promised them equality- social, political and economic…a very large number of under–trial prisoners suffer prolonged incarceration even in petty criminal matters merely for the reason that they are not in a position, even in bailable offences, to furnish bail bonds and get released on bail.”
Ex-Chief Justice of India Adarsh Sein Anand
In India, eighty percent of the inmates in the jails are under trials. The major problems faced by these inmates are not only of not getting a trial but that of not being granted bail, inhuman treatment in jails, facing poor conditions, lack of proper medical treatment, etc. There are various statutes such as the Prisoners Act, 1894; the Model Manual Prison India, etc. and various precedents which have been laid down in landmark cases which provide for the rights which these prisoners are entitled to. However, the problem today lies not in the availability of these rights but in the implementation of these rights and precedents. We at HRLN, under the Prisoners Rights Initiative work towards helping these prisoners get their rightful treatment in the prisons, safeguard their access to a fair and speedy trial, facilitate bail procedures and work towards various other procedural requirements to ensure that these prisoners make efforts to only achieve reformation and don’t have to fight for their survival.
ISSUES OF CONCERN
- 80% prisoners are under trials
- Even though bail is granted, prisoners are not released.
- Lack or insufficient provision of medical aid to prisoners
- Callous and insensitive attitude of jail authorities
- Punishment carried out by jail authorities not coherent with punishment given by court.
- Harsh mental and physical torture
- Lack of proper legal aid
- High amount of surety ordered by courts which indigent prisoners can’t pay
- Rejection of surety bonds due to lack of money or verification of addresses, as indigent prisoners don’t have houses.
- Corruption and other malpractices.
WHAT WE DO?
The Prisoners Rights Initiative, in confluence with advocates and social activists working all across India aim at getting prisoners released, especially indigent ones, who are or have been under going trials and have been languishing in the prison for a long period of time. For this purpose, we file bail applications, file for surety bonds and in cases where the indigent prisoners are unable to pay for the same, we provide for monetary assistance in collaboration with our other NGO initiatives.
Since, this initiative deals with problems faced by prisoners, our advocates regularly visit the jails and collect cases and case details from the prisoners.
Apart from providing assistance to prisoners to ensure their safe and timely releases, our constant endeavor is to aspire to safeguard the rights of these prisoners to a fair and speedy trial. So far, in Delhi prison itself, over 500 persons have been provided with legal advice/representation and over 200 indigent prisoners and 150 juveniles have been released on bail. Once the prisoners have been released, we aim at providing facilities to these prisoners so that they are able to get in touch with their family, we counsel them and their families and help these prisoners reach their homes safely by providing monetary assistance which is done with the help of our other partner NGOs.
Our advocates not only fight for indigent prisoners, but also women prisoners, prisoners with disabilities and juveniles We have filed various PILs in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Delhi and have managed to get successful releases of prisoners, inquiries ordered by Courts to look into the matters and provision of legal aid to these prisoners.
HRLN held a National Consultation Conference whereby all advocates and social activists working with various NGOs all across the country came together to discuss the main issues and plan of action to combat the grievances faced by prisoners. The main of the conference was to establish an approach whereby legal teams would be instituted to make frequent visits to police station lock ups and prisons to provide legal advice and representation.
WHAT WE HAVE DONE
As per statistics, we at HRLN have taken up 841 cases so far. This is the number of cases that we have worked upon in eight states including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Delhi, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The total number of cases taken up until 2011 is 841, wherein the total number of bails granted is 738 which is highly indicative of our success rate. Our basic aim has been from the start to gradually achieve systemic change where legal aid for undertrials will be institutionalized from the point of arrest and the legal aid system substantially reformed and also to raise awareness of prison conditions and the problems faced by undertrials. We believe in the ideology to provide legal aid to indigent undertrials from the point of arrest. To release groups of undertrials who are languishing in jail beyond the maximum possible period of incarceration.
We at HRLN visit jails to have direct communication with the prisoners who have been in these prisons for years due to undertrial. During the jail visits these lawyers or paralegal worker meet the prisoners and under trails directly and not only provide legal aid but also identify areas for work to be done. Many juveniles those were languishing in adult jails were released or transferred to Juvenile Homes. It has been very stately presumed that prisoners have undergone poor upkeep even when they are extremely sick. At HRLN we make it an agenda to ensure that sick prisoners are provided with better treatment.
The prison is supposed to be for reformatory purpose. However the entire purpose fails when the supposed transformation is delayed for more than decades. With people who under trials, their reformation is extended to such long period that their reformation indeed is extended to acute medical issues and these people are absolutely unfit to even survive as normal human beings.