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Government has announced that it will provide financial support to states to extend relief to poor prisoners who are unable to avail bail or get released from prison due to financial constraints.
Understanding the Scheme
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has finalised the broad contours of the scheme in consultation with concerned stakeholders. Under the scheme, the Government of India will provide financial support to states to extend relief to poor prisoners who are unable to avail bail or get released from prisons due to non-payment of fines on account of financial constraints. This move is aimed at enabling poor prisoners, who belong to socially disadvantaged or marginalised groups with lower education and income level, to get out of prison.
The statement from the MHA said, “Further to ensure that the benefits of the Budget are extended across all intended sections of society, one of the priorities of the Budget, namely the Guiding ‘Saptarishis’ is Reaching the Last Mile. Under this, one of the announcements is ‘Support for Poor Prisoners‘, which envisages the provision of required financial support to poor persons who are in prisons and unable to afford the penalty or the bail amount.”
The government will use technology-driven solutions to ensure that benefits reach the poor prisoners by reinforcing the E-prisons platform, strengthening the District Legal Services Authority, and sensitising and capacity building of stakeholders to ensure that quality legal aid is made available to needy poor prisoners.
Government’s Efforts to Address Undertrial Issues
The MHA has been taking various steps to address the issues of undertrials prisoners from time to time. These include the insertion of Section 436A in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the insertion of a new chapter XXIA ‘Plea Bargaining‘ in the CrPC. Free legal aid is also being provided to poor prisoners through Legal Services Authority at various levels.
The Ministry has been sharing important guidelines with State Governments through various advisories issued from time to time. It has also been providing financial support to state governments for enhancing and modernising the security infrastructure in prisons.
Importance of Prisons in Upholding the Rule of Law
Prisons are an important part of the Criminal Justice System and play a significant role in upholding the rule of law. They are meant to provide a safe and secure environment for the rehabilitation and reformation of prisoners. However, overcrowding and poor living conditions in prisons have been a longstanding issue in India. The move by the government to provide financial support to poor prisoners will help alleviate this issue to some extent.
The government’s decision to provide financial support to states to extend relief to poor prisoners who are unable to avail bail or get released from prison due to financial constraints is a step in the right direction. It will help alleviate the issues of undertrials in prisons and ensure that the benefits of the Budget reach all intended sections of society.