For the first time, a joint initiative of the government and high courts has resulted in freedom from jails for around 6.5 lakh undertrials across the country in the short period of just 14 months.
In a letter to chief justices of all the 21 HCs congratulating them for the success of the special drive, law minister M Veerappa Moily has advised them to encourage trials through video conferencing to cut down the delays in deciding cases of undertrials lodged in jails.
According to official figures cited in the letter, seven lakh cases, which were taken up between January 26 last year to May 31 this year involving the undertrials, resulted in around 6.5 lakh undertrials being released from jails while 68,744 were convicted for offences committed by them.
The latest figures show that out of a million (10 lakh) undertials lodged in jails when the special drive to reduce congestion in jails was launched last year, now only 2.25 lakh of them remain behind the bars.
It has been seen in majority of cases that the undertrials languishing in jails were accused of committing petty offences and were unable to come out because of stringent bail conditions, Moily said.
Having been encouraged with the kind of performance under the leadership of all the chief justices of high courts, fully supported by the subordinate courts and also the state governments, I would urge all of you to further step up the programme," Moily wrote.
The law minister has suggested to the chief justices and state governments to seize the opportunity by utilising the funds provided by the Centre for the electronic courts project.
Video conferencing facilities are being provided to the district courts and the extent possible to the jails. This facility can be effectively utilised for reducing the number of undertrials and also speeding up the trials, the minister stated.
The concept of video conferencing will ensure that the delays in disposal of bail applications of undertrials and hearing of cases is reduced to a large extent, Moily wrote.
A background paper prepared by the law ministry has cited many reasons for its stress on trials through video conferencing. It saves time and manpower spent on transporting the accused to courts and in providing security to them. This procedure also reduces interference by the media, it stated.