Above: Photo by Anil Shakya
More than the crowding of jails in the country with convicts, there are many more inside who are just undertrials. With the current pendency rate at courts, they are in dire straits. That is the case not only in jails in metropolitan areas but also in jails away from such areas.
They languish, without trial or legal help towards it, despite the government’s mandate of having to do so.
Now the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) wants to go beyond the metros and sate capitals to provide such help to those who cannot afford legal help.
According to a media report, NALSA is mapping the whereabouts of 4,19,623 prisoners in 1,401 jails. The huge work also involves listing all charges against them as well as finding out who among them have not been able to engage a lawyer.
Supreme Court’s Justice Dipak Misra, executive chairman of NALSA, has been quoted by Times of India as saying: “The idea behind digitisation of data on cases against prisoners, 67 percent of whom are facing trial, is to identify which of them need legal assistance. Each state legal services authority will have a legal assistance establishment manned by professionals who can connect with prisons within the state and reach out to poor and needy prisoners who require legal assistance.
“The motto behind this is to universalise the precious fundamental right to fair and speedy trial, which was declared to be a fundamental right by the Supreme Court long ago. To make this happen, we have increased the strength of paralegal volunteers from 54,000 to nearly 80,000. In the initial phase, after profiling cases of each prisoner, we will make an attempt to secure bail for those inmates who have undergone a major portion of the sentence that would be awarded to them if found guilty.
“There will be video conferencing facility between the legal assistance establishment in each state legal services authority and each prison to enable professionals and paralegal volunteers to keep in touch with
undertrial prisoners for better understanding of their case and provide immediate legal assistance,” he said.
—India Legal Bureau