Pretrial Detention - Impacts and Successes
Amnesty International India has, as a part of the advocacy work on this project, engaged with the Executive, Prisons Department and the Judiciary since June 2013 resulting in some significant impacts and successes.
o National – Circular issued by Ministry of Home Affairs to all States and Union Territories regarding the implementation of section 436A CrPC in January 2013.
o Karnataka - Circular issued by the Prisons Department, in November 2013, to all districts stating that the Undertrial Review Committee (UTRC) has been constituted.
o Karnataka – AI India has made submissions/recommendations to the Law Minister to review the compensation scheme for Legal Aid lawyers in the state; and setting up monitoring mechanisms for implementation of the UTRC.
o National & Karnataka– Note, drafted by AI India, on ‘How to determine eligibility under Sec. 436A CrPC shared with Mr. Suresh Kumar, the Joint Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Office of the Additional Director General of Police (Prisons).
o Successful interaction with 21 Principal District Judges of Karnataka on the project and the implementation of the UTRC in their respective districts
o Successful interaction with a sitting Judge of the High Court of Karnataka towards issuing a notification to all Principal District Judges of Karnataka on constitution of the UTRC and effective implementation of S. 436A CrPC.
o Successful interaction with the Office of the Hon’ble Chief Justice and Registrar General’s Office, Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka, towards collection and compilation of data on Sec. 436A from all district courts in the state.
o Ensured the setting up and the first meeting of the UTRC in Madikeri District, Karnataka.
· Prison Department and Jails
o Continued engagement with the Prison authorities to train the staff on accurate data management with regard to undertrial prisoners.
o Identified and analysed various systemic challenges for the lack of implementation of Sec.436A in prisons; helping authorities with resolving those issues.
o Note, drafted by AI India, on ‘How to determine eligibility under Sec. 436A CrPC shared with the Office of the Additional Director General of Police (Prisons) has been circulated to all the Central and District jails across Karnataka. AI India researchers have seen the document being used by the jail authorities in Bangalore Central Jail.
· Release of Undertrial Prisoners
o Four undertrial prisoners released in Karnataka since February 2014 under per Sec. 436A, Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
During the course of our research, on the issue, in Karnataka so far we have identified four systematic issues that have contributed to the problem of excessive pre-trial detention in the state. The same with the along with some key recommendations are mentioned below.
A. Lack of Proper Prison Record Management
i. Transparency of information and effective monitoring will help facilitate the release of eligible undertrials and reduce overcrowding in jails. As a first step, a central computerized database and tracking system for prisoners in all jails across the state should be set up, with periodic training of prison officials in its use.
ii. The existing model of recording undertrial prisoner data should be reviewed and made conducive to the identify eligibility for release under Section 436A.
B. Delays in court productions due to lack of adequate police escorts and video-conferencing facilities
i. Urgent attention is required for creating a pool of independent escorts for prisoners for production in court.
ii. Further, judicial supervision of the undertrial population through regular jail visits of district magistrates as ex-officio visitors should be implemented.
C. Lack of Effective Legal Aid
i. There is an urgent need to strengthen legal aid services in the state, including by providing lawyers competitive salaries and incentivizing their work.
ii. The government must ensure that disciplinary complaints against legal aid lawyers are promptly investigated and adjudicated in accordance with professional codes of ethics.
D. Non-functional Undertrial Review Committees (UTRC)
i. The Karnataka government, having notified all districts about the constitution of the Undertrial Review Committee (UTRC) in November 2013, must now monitor and ensure its regular and effective implementation.
ii. The Karnataka Home Minister must direct the office of each Principal District and Sessions Judge to ensure that the minutes of every UTRC meeting, lists of undertrial prisoners presented, and action taken by the committee in every meeting are maintained and submitted to the Home Minister’s office, on or before the 1st of the month following the UTRC meeting. This will streamline record-keeping and ensure transparency and accountability.