Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, judge of the Supreme Court and Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) on Monday launched a nationwide campaign to expedite the identification and review of prisoners eligible for release.
Speaking on the occasion, Justice Kaul said that the issues of undertrial prisoners languishing in prisons despite being eligible to be reviewed for release have continued to come up before the Supreme Court as well as the High Courts.
He said it was part of the responsibility of all judges to ensure that the law was followed in letter and spirit, and that it did not discriminate between anyone on the basis of quality of legal representation they could afford among other man made qualifiers.
The Supreme Court judge explained the intrinsic linkages between a robust legal aid system, access to justice and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, an aspect that has been a focus of the G20 Summit 2023 and was one of the resolutions of the G20 New Delhi Leader’s Declaration.
The online event was convened by Santosh Snehi Mann, Member Secretary, National Legal Services Authority.
Reiterating the principle of ‘bail’ being the ‘rule’ and ‘jail’ being an ‘exception,’ Mann said that the UTRCs aimed at preventing imprisonment solely due to poverty or inadequate legal representation.
She said this nationwide campaign represented a significant step towards ensuring the fair and efficient administration of justice, emphasising the principle that justice should be accessible to all, regardless of their circumstances.
The campaign, which will continue till November 20, 2023 across all districts of the country, is expected to accelerate the existing functioning of the Under Trial Review Committees (UTRCs).
UTRCs are district level bodies headed by the respective District and Sessions Judges, having the District Magistrates, Superintendents of Police, Secretaries, District Legal Services Authorities and Officers-in-Charge of Prisons as their members.
They were constituted in furtherance with the directions of the Supreme Court in the case In Re-Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons in 2015.
In the past five years, these bodies have recommended the release of over two lakh prisoners, out of which 91,703 jail mates were freed across India.
NALSA’s campaign ‘Release_UTRC@75’ undertaken in July and August 2022 had led to 47,618 recommendations for release, out of which 37,220 prisoners were released.
The online launch event was attended by the Executive Chairpersons and Member Secretaries and other functionaries of all State Legal Services Authorities, Executive Chairpersons and Secretaries of the DLSAs, along with the members of UTRCs.