433 undertrials in Maharashtra state prisons because they can’t afford bail

Mubarak Ansari
Friday, 13 April 2018

Pune: There are 433 prisoners in various jails of Maharashtra even after they have been granted bail by courts. Officials said they are languishing as they can’t furnish sureties of either third party or the cash. 

Now, after consulting the State government, the Maharashtra Prisons Department has appealed to NGOs and corporates to come forward to bail out these undertrial prisoners by fulfilling bail conditions and release them from jails. 

Pune: There are 433 prisoners in various jails of Maharashtra even after they have been granted bail by courts. Officials said they are languishing as they can’t furnish sureties of either third party or the cash. 

Now, after consulting the State government, the Maharashtra Prisons Department has appealed to NGOs and corporates to come forward to bail out these undertrial prisoners by fulfilling bail conditions and release them from jails. 

City-based Royal Group of Companies recently helped two undertrials come out of jail. One of them was in the prison for 25 months whereas the crime is punishable with only three months’ sentence. 

Dr Bhushan Kumar Upadhyay, Head of the Maharashtra Prisons Department, said, “It is part of the reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners. The number of such prisoners is not constant. With the help of corporates and NGOs we are trying to help undertrials who are accused of committing petty offences.”

Another jail official told Sakal Times, “It is necessary to help such prisoners get out of the jail as soon as possible, otherwise organised gang members try to lure them. They provide them money and help them get bail. Thus, the person feels obliged and the gangs use them in serious crimes.”

One of the prisoners released is Rajendra Bharat Sunsune of Lohegaon. He was caught for illegal possession of liqour and remained in jail from February 2, 2016, till March this year. “Had I been convicted, the maximum punishment would have been 3-4 months, but I spent months behind bars,” Sunsune said.

Advocate Kainat Shaikh told Sakal Times that the prisoners in the jail are under the custody of the magistrate who can grant them bail on personal bond also in petty offences. “If someone has to spend more time in jail than the sentence he/she would get on conviction, it is sad. An accused can be released on personal bond with or without surety. In surety one has to bring a person who owns some property, earns more than specified amount or can be released on cash surety. The accused doesn’t have to pay in personal bond and just put his signature on the paper. It is the discretion of the magistrate to grant bail. They must ensure that injustice is not done to the accused persons as they are under the magistrate’s custody and lodged in jail.”

Praful Kothari, Director of Royal Group of Companies, said, “We helped two prisoners get bail and the process is on for eight others. These are people from economically weaker sections of the society who are not able to afford bail conditions.”

Law Commission of India 268th report (2017)
The data collected regarding prison population in India represents a grim scenario. It indicates that 67 per cent of the prison population is awaiting trial. Inconsistency in bail system may be one of the reasons for over-crowding of prisons. A majority of undertrials (70.6 per cent) are illiterate or semi-illiterate. In the absence of data regarding economic status of prisoners, ‘literacy’ serves as a useful proxy to appreciate that the majority of undertrials belong to the socio-economically marginalized groups. Reports from Ministry of Home Affairs show that 2,31,340 undertrial prisoners were lodged in jails for crimes under Indian Penal Code (IPC), and 50,457 under special laws, e.g. Customs Act of 1962, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985, Excise Act of 1944, etc.8. A large number of 12,92,357 undertrials were released in 2015 out of which 11,57,581 were released on bail.

Prisoners’ statistics
- Total 21,448 undertrial prisoners in State.
- 3,412 of them for crimes with less than 3 years imprisonment.
- 3,900 for crimes with 3-7 years imprisonment.
- 14,600 for crimes punishable with more than 7 years imprisonment. 

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