India is one of the largest democracies in the world. Justice in this country is meant to be blind and yet the state of undertrials is far from decent. Our overcrowded jails are filled with numerous people who get proven innocent upon trial. The horrible living conditions these people are resigned to seriously make us question the efficiency of India’s judiciary.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the alarming state of undertrial prisoners in India. We will delve deeper into the trauma and health risks many Indian jail inmates face during their unjust persecution and what we at Let It Count are doing to cast a spotlight on this burning issue.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
It is no secret that India’s prisons are overcrowded. As of December of 2023, there were over 573,000 prisoners spread across 1400 jails all over India. The country boasts the 4th largest prison population in the world. In the Indian Justice Report published by The Print in 2022, it was found that around 8 in 10 prisoners in Indian prisons were awaiting trial.
Despite being crammed and filled to the brim, this prison population has only risen post the Covid-19 pandemic from 118% to 130%. Needless to say, the reality of Indian prisons is both sad and disturbing.
The situation only becomes grimmer when you realize that most of these undertrial prisoners in India were arrested for minor offenses. So the question arises, why does such an incompetent system that perpetuates injustice persist in India?
Overcrowded jails are a nuisance and an unwanted burden on the prison system. Indian jail inmates find themselves crammed into tight spaces. They are forced to live in conditions that can be best described as filthy and unhygienic. They are susceptible to various diseases and prison abuse.
Most of these jails aren’t equipped with the necessary facilities and resources, thus violating the basic human rights of the inmates within them. By imprisoning people without proving their guilt, the Indian justice system inadvertently ends up committing a crime that’s far worse than the offenses many incarcerated individuals in India are being punished for.
The Awful Reality of Innocence Behind Bars
According to a 2022 report published by The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), it was stated that more than 75% of prisoners in India were under trial.
What is even more disturbing about this statistic is the fact that most of these individuals are eventually proven innocent upon trial. A considerable portion of this under-trial population is either acquitted or released due to lack of evidence.
The report ends up exposing a grossly flawed system. This is a system that persecutes people without proper investigation and evidence. We have a system that doesn’t seem to be bothered by the numerous lives it destroys and the families it tears apart.
Exposed to Disease and Despair
When you dig deeper into the plight of undertrials in this country, you’ll find out that their problems aren’t limited to an overcrowded cell. Most prisons in India lack basic healthcare facilities. Many prisoners get exposed to life-threatening diseases like HIV, AIDs, and Malaria. It wouldn’t be a tall claim to say that the prisons of India serve as a breeding ground for various medical ailments.
By shoving undertrials in such confinements, we are essentially endangering the lives of individuals who may be innocent. Infectious diseases are rampant in Indian prisons. In the Lancet Public Health report published by the Time of India, it was stated that Indian jail inmates are five times more at risk of developing Tuberculosis than the general population.
Proper healthcare and preventive measures are more or less absent in Indian prisons, thus making prisoners vulnerable to a wide range of diseases. Moreover, once these prisoners are released, they also end up posing a risk to society and their communities as well.
Prison Crimes: Tortured and Assaulted Behind Bars
Diseases aren’t the only thing undertrials in India have to deal with. Many prisoners have to endure assault, torture, and even rape from their fellow inmates. Over the years, there have been many stories of exploitation within India’s prison cells… some of these stories would make your skin crawl. Innocent undertrials often find themselves at the mercy of more hardened criminals.
Prison abuse, both physical and psychological, is often reported. However, there is seldom any accountability. The emotional and mental trauma an undertrial prisoner in India has to go through is unimaginable. It is nothing short of a nightmare.
Even if these undertrials are proven innocent, many of them end up being shunned by society. The general public perceives them as mere criminals. They have a tough time integrating back into neighborhoods that once welcomed them and have to live the rest of their lives as social pariahs.
This is an injustice no Indian with a strong moral core should ignore, which is why it is our duty as the citizens of this beautiful nation to call for reforms in the criminal justice system.
The state of undertrials in India should put the country to shame. There should be no place in a democracy for jails crammed with innocents awaiting a fair trial. A reform within the criminal justice system is the need of the hour and the government along with the judiciary must step in to ensure this happens without any further delay.
Justice will only prevail if our government at large cares to invest in better prison infrastructure. It will only persist if our system prioritizes the well-being of jail inmates. Justice shouldn’t be a mere ideal that we worship, it should be our lived reality as citizens of a country that celebrates freedom.
Here at Let It Count, we too have joined the fight to ensure speedy jail reforms by joining hands with “KhulaAasman”, a project based out of Delhi and Haryana serving as the voice of those who are unjustly imprisoned. Their pilot program was able to secure the release of 11 inmates with 17 more releases underway.
They intend to raise enough funds to help with the release of 380-400 inmates in the coming year and Let It Count is with them every step of the way. This is a cause worthy of your support.
Get in touch now to learn more about the project.