“Hasty arrests, prolonged incarceration of undertrials need urgent attention,” says CJI

Speaking at an event in Jaipur in the presence of Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and senior judges of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of India N V Ramana expressed concern over the high ratio of undertrial prisoners and said the “process is the punishment.”

“The challenges are huge. In our criminal justice system, the process is the punishment. From hasty, indiscriminate arrests, to difficulty in obtaining bail, the process leading to the prolonged incarceration of under trials needs urgent attention,” he said in his address.

“We need a holistic plan of action, to increase the efficiency of the administration of criminal justice. Training and sensitization of the police and modernization of the prison system is one facet of improving the administration of criminal justice,” Justice Ramana further said.

His comments came at a time when opposition leaders, law experts, rights activists and Muslim leaders have been raising persistent questions on the arrests of Muslim activists and journalists, rights defenders and Opposition leaders.

He went on to say: “NALSA (National Legal Services Authority) and legal service authorities need to focus on the above issues to determine how best they can help.”

He said in India, there are 6.1 lakh prisoners in 1,378 prisons and they are one of the most vulnerable sections of society.

He said: “Prisons are black boxes. Prisoners are often unseen, unheard citizens. Prisons have different impacts on different categories of prisoners, particularly those belonging to marginalised communities. In our criminal justice system, the process is the punishment. From hasty, indiscriminate arrests to difficulty in obtaining bail, the process leading to the prolonged incarcerations of undertrials needs urgent attention.”

The Chief Justice also expressed concern at political opposition translating into hostility.

“Political opposition should not translate into hostility, which we have been sadly witnessing these days. These are not signs of a healthy democracy. There used to be mutual respect between the government and opposition. Unfortunately, space for opposition is diminishing,” the CJI said.