42,259 undertrial prisoners released from jails across country during lockdown period: NALSA report

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New Delhi, May 15 (PTI) In nearly over one and half months, a total of 42,259 undertrial prisoners were released from jails across the country during the lockdown period in a move to decongest the prisons in view of the coronavirus outbreak.

An interim report on initiative taken by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) said that during the period, Uttar Pradesh released highest number of 9,977 undertrials prisoner followed by Rajasthan (5,460), Tamil Nadu (4,547), Punjab (3,698), Maharashtra (3,400), Madhya Pradesh (2,833), Delhi (2,177), Haryana (1,843), West Bengal (1,715) and Chhattisgarh (1,643).

It said during the pandemic the undertrial prisoners were released pursuant to the recommendations of the High Powered Committees constituted by the Supreme Court.

The top court had on March 23, directed all the states and UTs to constitute High Powered Committees which could decide which prisoners may be released on interim bail or parole during the pandemic.

The report said that across the country, a total of 16,391 convicts were released during the period on parole, etc. in pursuant to the recommendations of the High Powered Committees.

Madhya Pradesh topped the chart in releasing most prisoners on parole with number totalling to 3, 577 persons and it was followed by Punjab (3,479), Haryana (2,859), Uttar Pradesh (1,989), Kerala (1,128), Delhi (1,010), West Bengal (488) and Karnataka (405).

Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chandigarh and Odisha released 334, 228, 182, 133 and 103 convicts during the period on parole.

“In compliance of the directives of NALSA, State Legal Services Authorities (SLSA) have initiated mechanisms to achieve the target of “social distancing in Prisons” by taking various measures with the ultimate object of reducing over-crowding in jails,” the report said giving the details of activities undertaken by NALSA during the lockdown period.

The report of NALSA said that extraordinary times requires extraordinary measures and pointed out that apart from release of undertrials prisoners and grant of parole to convicts, legal representation has also been provided to 9,558 persons at the remand stage in different States and Union Territories across the country.

It said that the endeavour of NALSA, even during this unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, is that the poor and the illiterate should be able to approach the Courts of law. The report said that during the lockdown period, 825 people have approached it with grievances relating to denial of wages/salaries by employers on behalf of themselves as well as, other daily wagers.

“Out of the same, 1,822 people were provided with legal aid and assistance by the Legal Services Authorities. The highest number of such cases were reported in Uttarakhand (226) followed by Haryana (221), Punjab (166), Himachal Pradesh (77) and Mizoram (38). Legal aid and assistance was provided in all such cases,” it said, adding that legal aid and assistance was provided to 1,018 people of Bihar.

The report also highlighted that in 310 cases legal aid and assistance was provided to tenants facing eviction during the lockdown period and the State with the highest number of cases in which most assistance was sought by the tenants was Uttarakhand (202).

It said that legal aid and assistance was also provided in West Bengal, Haryana, Karnataka which reported 40, 34 and 12 cases respectively.

As per the data, a total of 727 cases relating to Domestic Violence were reported to the Legal Services Authorities in different states/UTs across the country for seeking legal aid and assistance during the lockdown period.

The report said that the highest number of cases were reported in Uttarakhand (144) followed by Haryana (79), Delhi (63), Chandigarh (50), Tamil Nadu (48), Punjab and Uttar Pradesh (47 each) and West Bengal (46).

It said that Odisha reported 37 cases, Chhattisgarh reported 31 cases, Bihar reported 21 cases while, Kerala has 18 such cases, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram reported 17 cases each, Maharashtra reported 12 cases and Himachal Pradesh had 10 cases. “Out of them, in a total of 658 cases (90.51 per cent), legal aid and assistance were provided to the women who sought legal aid and assistance on Domestic Violence, the highest being in the State of Uttarakhand (141) followed by Haryana (66), Delhi (63), Chandigarh (50), Uttar Pradesh (47), West Bengal (46), Punjab (34), Odisha (31), Bihar and Chhattisgarh (25 each) and Mizoram (21),” the report said.

The report was compiled by NALSA after collecting data from different State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs). Total of 28 SLSAs have submitted their data while eight SLSAs did not submitted the figures in their respective states.

“As a result of committed efforts of stakeholders, the statistics indicates that Legal Services Institutions have so far provided legal aid and assistance in 658 domestic violence cases to women, 42,772 undertrial prisoners, 16,391 convicts, 9,558 persons at the remand stage, 1,882 labourers, 310 tenants, amongst others,” NALSA said. PTI MNL ABA SJK RKS MNL RKS RKS