The number of people awaiting their trials sharply rose in 2020, even as the number of people convicted of crimes reduced, thus resulting in accounting for three-fourths of all those in jail. The COVID-19 impacted year showed a significant decline in the number of undertrials released on bail compared to 2019. The data also records an overall reduction in the number of court visits from the jail in the same year. On the other hand, different patterns have been seen for different states because many courts conducted video-conferencing sessions and reduced the convicts in the jails, thus increasing the proportion of undertrials.
Delhi Had Most Undertrials, Kerala Least
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released the Prison Statistics India, 2020 report, analysed by the India Justice Report. The most significant jump in the proportion of undertrials was in Punjab. In 2019, the state had 66 per cent of undertrial prisoners in their jails, which rose to 84.7 per cent in 2020. Haryana followed close in line, with 81.7 per cent undertrial prisoners in 2020, compared to 64.4 per cent in 2019.
With 91 per cent of prisons in the jail yet to face trial, Delhi had the highest proportion, and Kerala had the lowest proportion with 59 per cent. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu and Telangana saw a decline in proportion and number of undertrials.
Unjust And Unfair
An increased percentage of undertrials in Indian prisons is a cause of concern because people behind bars are often innocent. Secondly, awaiting trials for years, even for petty offences, can cause them mental stress and trauma. Moreover, overcrowding leads to a shortage of space to lodge prisoners in safe and healthy areas, thus, increasing the chances of spreading infectious diseases.