SC notice on undertrials in jails

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The Supreme Court has issued notice to the central government and all states on a petition seeking the release of undertrials who were being kept in jails in alleged violation of the constitutional provisions.

The petition said keeping undertrials in jail beyond the period that they would have served if they were to be convicted was in violation of Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution as well as various sections of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Sister Suma Sebastian, an advocate engaged in giving free legal aid to destitute prisoners in Delhi's Tihar Jail, filed the plea.

The notice was issued by the apex court bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai on September 13 as counsel Amiy Shukla, appearing for the petitioner, sought direction for putting in place detailed procedures to ensure that juveniles were not housed in prisons meant for adult inmates.

Sebastian urged the court to direct magistrates and judges to proactively release on personal bond, with or without sureties, all undertrials who were eligible to avail the relaxed provisions dealing with release from judicial custody.

The petition said in 2011 there were 30,261 undertrials across the country awaiting their trial for between one-two years, 13,592 for between two-three years, 7,615 for between three-five years, and 1,486 for more than five years.

About 22 percent of all undertrials were waiting for a year or more for their trials to begin, the petition said. (IANS)

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