Overcrowding of Prisons in India

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Overcrowding in prisons is the main factor that is making prison conditions bad across the globe. It is also arguably the major single problem facing prison systems and its consequences can at worst be life-threatening at best prevent prisons from fulfilling their proper function.

Overcrowding could be a consequence of criminal justice policy not of rising crime rates and undermines the power of prison systems to fulfill basic human needs, like healthcare, food, and accommodation. It also compromises the supply and effectiveness of rehabilitation programs, educational education, and recreational activities. The excessive use of pre-trial detention, and therefore the use of prison for minor, petty offenses, are critical drivers of prison population rates.

Following a rise in prison overcrowding in India, critics are calling for brand spanking new reforms to the judicial process, to decrease the length of trials and reduce the number of inmates.

Three out of each four people held in India’s prisons are undertrial inmates, which implies they're currently unproven or awaiting trial. That number is in keeping with the most recent official data by the country’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its Prison Statistics India report for 2020. Meanwhile, a mean district jail runs at a percentage of 136%.

In total, the country has over 488,500 prisoners held across 410 district jails.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International noted that India’s number of undertrials is “far on top of in other democracies round the world,” and as of 2017, the country had the third highest number of undertrial inmates in Asia.

Congestion in jails, particularly among undertrials, has been a source of concern. The enforcement Assistance Administration National Jail Census in 1970 had revealed that 52% of the jail inmates were awaiting trial. Obviously, if prison overcrowding is to be brought down then the under-trial population has got to be reduced drastically. Of course, this cannot happen without the courts and therefore the police work together. The three wings of the criminal justice system would need to act harmonically. Speedy trials are frustrated by an important court workload and sophisticated procedures, the police’s inability to supply the witnesses promptly, and a recalcitrant defense attorney who was bent upon seeking adjournments, whether or not such tactics harm his/her client. means courts have helped to a way extent, but it's not made any measurable difference to the matter of pendency. Increasing the number of courts couldn't evoke the specified difference as long because the current `adjournments culture’ continues

Twelve of the massive and mid-sized states included in the study had an occupancy of over 100%. Chhattisgarh (222.5%), Madhya Pradesh (208%), and state (168%) were especially overburdened.

In 2020, SC issued directions to line up high-powered committees (HPCs) in each state to decongest prisons, considering the covid situation. in line with the court, the state is must consider the health and right to a lifetime of both the prison inmates and also the police personnel working”.

For example, Delhi HPC directed that pregnant undertrials or mothers with children are released on interim bail for 3 months. But, the HPC didn't discuss the amount of the trimester. The Delhi HPC didn't honor the UN’s Bangkok Rules which state that “non-custodial means should be preferred for pregnant women during the pre-trial phase”.


Congested cells in jails violate the dignity of prisoners and violate the basic rights guaranteed by the constitution; resulting in unhygienic conditions and sanitation problems damaging the health of prisoners, impeding their behavioral progress; results in discipline and management issues, especially as prisons are understaffed

Measures to decongest:

Fasten the judiciary process through more judicial appointments and meet the international norms of judge-to-population ratio; Arrange for bails supported personal surety for poor people in petty crime cases Develop the infrastructure of jails by providing more spacious cells

In recent years the typical capacity of prisons is increased immensely because of the following causes:

Lack of Infrastructure in proportion to increasing crime rates. Increment within the population of under-trial prisoners as they're unable to execute bail bonds in the aspects to poverty

Delay in justice, increases the number of trial prisoners.

Lack of invocation of Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure which suggests the discharge of these under-trial prisoners who have completed 1/2 maximum Jail terms

The Supreme Court appointed Justice Amitava Roy (retd.) Committee has given subsequent recommendations to reform prisons.

For Overcrowding:

Speedy Trial: Speedy trial remains one of the most effective ways to remedy the unwarranted phenomenon of overcrowding.

Lawyer to Prisoner Ratio: There should be a minimum of one lawyer for every 30 prisoners, which isn't the case nowadays.

Special Courts: Special fast-track courts should be founded to deal exclusively with petty offenses which are pending for over five years.

Further, accused persons who are charged with petty offenses and people granted bail, but who are unable to rearrange surety should be released on a private Recognizance (PR) Bond.

Avoid Adjournment: An adjournment mustn't be granted in cases where witnesses are present and therefore the concept of bargaining, during which the accused admits guilt for a lesser sentence, should be promoted.

The Law Commission in its 78th Report (1979) made some recommendations for alleviating congestion in prisons. These suggestions include liberalization of conditions of release on bail, particularly the release of certain categories of undertrials on bail. Other methods of reducing overcrowding in prisons may include extensive use of fines as an alternate punishment for imprisonment, civil commitment, and release on probation.

Overcrowding may be reduced by the release on parole of a prisoner after he has served a part of the sentence imposed upon him. It's a conditional release of a private from prison. The system of remission, leaves and premature release may be useful in tackling the matter of overcrowding in prison institutions. The All India Committee on Jail Reforms, headed by Justice A.N. Mulla has in its Report (1980-83) mentioned various sorts of remission and made useful recommendations to streamline the remission system in India.