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NHRC suggests night courts to tackle overcrowding in prisons
May, 14th 2012

To tackle overcrowding in prisons across the country, the National Human Rights Commission has suggested holding of night courts in jails for trial of petty offences.

NHRC Chairperson K G Balakrishnan said various strategies could be employed to bring down the prison population like ensuring that police does not make any arrest indiscriminately and also providing legal aid to the poor.

He said the number of undertrial prisoners is very high in India and there is no other country which have such a count in its jails.

Convicts may be in large numbers but not undertrial prisoners, he said.
"In jails itself, there could be some courts so that petty offences could be tried. The timing could be between 4 PM and 8 PM. Some incentive should be provided to the magistrates.

"Earlier, there were evening courts in some places. One third of the basic was given as incentive to magistrates. Only young lawyers less than seven years were allowed to appear," Balakrishnan told PTI.

He said there can be some facility for court in the prison itself. "Even witnesses would love to come in the evening so that they don't lose their wages," he said.

The jails in the country are bursting at the seams, with the NCRB statistics showing that 3,68,998 prisoners are lodged in the country's 1,393 prisons as against their capacity of 3,20,450 inmates. The occupancy rate was 115.1 per cent in 2010.

Balakrishnan said sometimes people are unnecessarily incarcerated. "But after long trial, they are acquitted," he said.

"Another issue is that poor people, who get bail from courts, are not able to produce sureties. They are not able to get out of prisons. Such people should be released on some personal bond," he suggested.

However, Balakrishnan said it will be difficult if these people are accused of heinous crimes. He suggested that others should be given bail.

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