OVER 55 per cent of undertrials across the country are either Muslims, Dalits or tribals, according to the National Crime Records Bureau’s prison data for 2015. According to the NCRB, over two-thirds of all jail inmates are undertrials. The data also shows that more than 70 per cent of undertrials have not passed Class 10.
Muslims, Dalits and tribals together account for 39 per cent of India’s population, thus their share among undertrials is disproportionate to their population. According to the 2011 Census, Muslims make up 14.2 per cent, Scheduled Castes (SC) 16.6 per cent and Scheduled Tribes (ST) 8.6 per cent of India’s population.
Besides, the three communities have a lower representation among convicts as compared to undertrials. Together, they account for 50.4 per cent of all convicts.
Among Muslims, the community’s share of convicts is 15.8 per cent, slightly above their representation in population, but their share among undertrials — at 20.9 per cent — is far higher. SCs account for 21.6 per cent of undertrials and 20.9 per cent of convicts, while STs make up 12.4 per cent of undertrials and 13.7 per cent of convicts. Out of 2,82,076 undertrials lodged in various jails in the country, a total of 80,528 undertrials are illiterate (28.5 per cent) and 1,19,082 have education levels below Class 10 (42.2 per cent).
The data also shows that most of the undertrials have to spend over three months in jail before they can secure bail — close to 65 per cent spend between three months and five years. While comparing the data to 2014, the NCRB report says the most significant increase in convictions was in rape cases — a jump of 11.6 per cent as against 1.5 per cent in murder cases and 2 per cent in overall convictions. Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of rape convicts at 19.6 per cent.
The number of undertrial prisoners also saw a marginal dip of 0.3 per cent when compared to 2014. According to the data, while capacity has increased over the years, jails continue to remain overcrowded with an occupancy rate of over 114 (as against a capacity of 100). The maximum overcrowding was observed in jails in Dadra & Nagar Haveli (276.7 per cent), followed by Chhattisgarh (233.9 per cent), Delhi (226.9 per cent), Meghalaya (177.9 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (168.8 per cent) and Madhya Pradesh (139.8 per cent).
According to the data, those convicted in murder cases accounted for 59.6 per cent of the total convicts. Similarly, 26.5 per cent of undertrials were charged with murder. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh topped the list of murder convicts at 21.9 per cent and 15.8 per cent respectively. They also accounted for the highest number of undertrials facing murder charges at 19.7 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively.