Supreme Court panel recommends several prison reforms

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News:The Supreme Court has issued notice to the central government seeking a reply on the Justice Amitava Roy committee recommendations.

Facts:

About the committee:

  • In 2018, the Supreme Court had constituted a three-member committee headed by former Supreme Court Judge Justice Amitava Roy to look into issues of reforms in prison administration and management.

Key recommendations of the committee:

  • Every new prisoner should be allowed a free phone call a day to his family members to see him through his first week in jail.
  • There should be modern cooking facilities,canteens to buy essential items.
  • Speedy trial remains one of the best ways to remedy the unwarranted phenomenon of overcrowding.
  • There should be atleast one lawyer for every 30 prisoners as under trial prisoners are languishing behind bars for years without a hearing.
  • There should be use of video-conferencing for trial mainly because of unavailability of sufficient police guards for escort and transportation.
  • Special fast-track courts should be set up to deal exclusively with petty offences which have been pending for more than five years.
  • An adjournment should not be granted in cases where witnesses are present and the concept of plea bargaining, in which accused admits guilt for a lesser sentence, should be promoted.

Prison Conditions in India:The India Justice Report 2019 highlighted the grim data on the prison conditions in India.As per the report: 

  • Prisons in India are overcrowded with a 114% occupancy rate where 17 out of 36 state and union territories have prison occupancy of 100 percent. 
  • As per the data, Delhi prisons are most occupied with 180% occupancy rate.The overcrowding in prisons is due to the fact that nearly 68% of under-trials are waiting for investigation, inquiry or trial.
  • The report found vacancies to be a major challenge in the three institutions of the criminal justice system namely police, prisons and the judiciary.