Raja, a construction worker, was detained in Bengaluru Central Prison in October 2014. He was suspected of attempting to steal jewelry. As an undertrial, Raja is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In March 2015, a court decided that he didn’t need to be in detention and granted him bail, on the condition that two people would vouch for his presence in court. But Raja was a poor migrant worker, with no local networks, and no one to reach out to.

So today, two and a half years after being granted bail, Raja is still in prison.

According to the law, courts must consider people’s financial circumstances when granting bail, and detention pending trial should be the exception, not the rule. But this is rarely followed.

Like Raja, many undertrials remain in prison only because of our unjust bail system, which hits poor and marginalized people the hardest. Undertrials may experience mental health problems due to prolonged detention and their families may get pushed into poverty as a result. Most judges insist that undertrials deposit money and/or provide a local surety as condition of release on bail. In Maharashtra, for example, at least 642 undertrials were in prison in July despite getting bail.

Fortunately, India’s Law Commission has recognized this grave injustice. It has recently recommended several non-monetary alternatives to bail.

We have a great opportunity to push for bail reforms. Together, we can work towards a fairer criminal justice system for Raja, and many undertrials like him.

Urge the Union Law Minister to amend the bail law, and ensure that alternatives to undertrial detention are considered. Take action by signing this petition or give a missed call at 080 3953 4449.

Because it’s time for us to stop punishing poverty.