NEWS Imprisonment practices need a relook so that the police do not affect unnecessary arrests.
- Overcrowding of prisons has been a perennial problem in India and amidst the pandemic, high occupancy levels poses greater risk.
- the occupancy rate in prisons had climbed to 118.5% in 2019.
- The Supreme Court has been intervening from time to time to address this problem.
- In its latest order directing the interim release of eligible prisoners acquires salience in view of the uncontrolled second surge in the raging pandemic.
- The Court had passed such directions last year too, in order to control the spread of the pandemic.
- Overcrowded Jail can become a super spreader due to poor hygiene.
- Thus it poses threat to rights of the prisoners and prison staff, which includes-
- Right to life
- Right to Health
WHY ARE JAILS OVERCROWDED
Overcrowding of jails can be attributed to:
- Judicial delay
- Large number of under trials yet not convicted of the accused crime
- Arresting without substantial proof
- Denial of bail despite lack of substantial evidences against the alleged
- For e.g., political prisoners such as those jailed in the Bhima Koregaon case without any direct link to any act of violence, are being repeatedly denied bail, solely because stringent laws have been invoked against them.
TAKING LEAD FROM THE SC’s VERDICT
- The Supreme Court has rightly emphasised the need to adhere to the norms it had laid down in Arnesh Kumar vs State of Bihar (2014).
- Under it the police was asked not to effect unnecessary arrests, especially in cases that involve jail terms less than seven years.
- In the past, the Court has also asked authorities in all districts in the country to give effect to Section 436A of the Cr.P.C., under which undertrials who have completed half of the maximum prison term prescribed for the offence may be released on personal bond.
- Also, recently the Supreme Court has thrown open the door to the legislature to “ponder” over the idea of placing convicts under house arrest to avoid overcrowding of prisons.
Effective follow-up action is needed to audit these measures so that these measures are not implemented selectively or arbitrarily.