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India: Supreme Court order on undertrials must spur systemic changes, Amnesty Intl. India

September 5, 2014 | By

New Delhi, India (September 05, 2014): Describing the recent ruling of Supreme Court of India (SCI) commanding release of all under-trial detainees who have spent half of their maximum term for offences for which they are charged, as a landmark order by India’s Supreme Court the Amnesty International India today said that it should lead to long-term changes to the criminal justice system.

“The Supreme Court’s order is inspiring and welcome,” said Divya Iyer, Research Manager at Amnesty International India. “Two out of three prisoners in India are undertrials. Excessive pre-trial detention violates detainees’ right to a fair and speedy trial, and leads to overcrowding in jails.”

[File Photo]

[File Photo]

“Releasing eligible undertrials is however only the first step. Authorities need to also set up various mechanisms to prevent excessive pre-trial detention in the future. These include proper prison record management, informing undertrials about their rights, better co-ordination to ensure that undertrials attend their court hearings, and improved legal aid.”

Amnesty International India’s “Take Injustice Personally” campaign aims to identify and facilitate the release of undertrial prisoners eligible for release under law, including those who have already been in prison for over half the term they would have faced if convicted. These undertrials are eligible to be released on personal bond under Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

“With both the central government and the Supreme Court showing their intent and commitment to reduce prolonged pre-trial detention and uphold prisoners’ fundamental rights, there is hope that this serious issue will finally get the attention it deserves,” said Divya Iyer.

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