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The Devastating Stories Of Over 100000 Young Lives Being Destroyed By The Indian Judicial System

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Khaliur Rehman 35, Anil Kumar Burman 33, Sonamani Deb 32,Prabati Malik 32. The following figures next to these names do not correspond to the age of the people, but it accounts for the number of years these people have been under-trail and languishing in jails waiting for their trails.

“The laxity with which we throw citizens into prison reflects our lack of appreciation for the tribulation of incarceration; the callousness with which we leave them there reflects our lack of deference for humanity.”– Supreme court of India.

According to the Prision statistics report published by National Crime Records Bureau of India in 2013 , 66.2% of the total inmates were undertrail prisoners. Uttar Pradesh (53,821) followed by Bihar (24,389), Madhya Pradesh (17,619), Maharashtra (16,426), Punjab (15,373), West Bengal (13,977), Rajasthan (13,170), Jharkhand (13,035) and Haryana (10,251) reported highest numbers of undertrial prisoners . A serious but steadily growing subculture in our judicial system. An undertrial means a person kept in prison while the charges against them are being tried.

Screenshot of Prison Statistics of India 2012
Screenshot of Prison Statistics of India 2012

The story of Machang lang is the perfect example of the plight of prisoners in India. After spending 54 years in jail, Machang Lang was finally acquitted of the crime he was sent to jail for in 1951. While the charges for which lang was arrested would have landed him a life term sentence of 14 years if proven guilty, Lang spent more than half a century in jail awaiting for his trail. It was only after some civil rights group took notice of his case and forwarded it to the National Human Rights Commission that Lang’s case was finally taken up.

Grim but true, the situation on ground is even worse, there are many cases like that of Lang where these undertrial prisoners languish in jail, awaiting justice, while some don’t even get to have a single hearing at the court. Suffering more than their share of punishment, some of the inmates have spent more than their prescribed term in jails, waiting for the charges posed on them to be proven true.

Picture from
Picture from

The pain of being forgotten by the very same law which gives them the right to live and right to freedom is nothing less than frustrating for these prisoners and their families. While the statistics reveal that most of the inmates in the jails are illiterate, semi literate and from poorer sections, this poses another big hurdle in their path to freedom, as most of the times such inmates and their family members are unaware about their legal rights and aids. They can’t even afford to pay for bail.

Caught in this vicious circle of unfinished investigations, no information about legal rights and aids, poverty and illiteracy, 2, 54,857 undertrial prisoners languish in jails awaiting justice. Unfortunately, the battle for these undertrial prisoners is not only the fight to have their freedom back but also to earn their long lost dignity in the societal contours, which looks at them weary eyed and always with doubtful glances.

According to the Supreme Court, “When the undertrial prisoners are detained in jail custody for an indefinite period, Article 21 of the Constitution is violated.” Article 21 of the Indian constitution deals with the right to life and personal liberty of an Indian citizen.

Even with the 2005 amendment in the Cr Pc Act, which states that an undertrial prisoner having undergone detention for a period extending up to one-half of the maximum period of imprisonment specified for that offence under that law, shall be released by the Court on his personal bond with or without sureties. However, little has been done on ground to actually make this happen, and little do these undertrial prisoners know about this amendment to demand justice.

With the need to bring such a dreadful situation to account, Amensty international has launched a campaign called “Take injustice personally” which aims to identify and facilitate the release of undertrial prisoners eligible for release under law, including those who have already been in prison for over half the term they would have faced if convicted. The campaign urges people to join hands and show their support by giving a Missed Call to 080888-88899 or sign a petition online.

“Two out of three people in prison in India are undertrials. Thousands of poor and voiceless undertrial prisoners, by the government’s own admission, are locked away for long periods in prison, awaiting trial for minor offences,” said G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive, Amnesty International India.

Organisations like International Bridges To Justice and Human Rights Law Network are also working on ground trying to educate, sensitize and improve the criminal legal aid in India.

Organisations like the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association have pointed out the enormous prejudice that members of Muslim communities face with often concocted charges being imposed on them and rendering them jailed for years altogether. “Guilt by Association: UAPA Cases from Madhya Pradesh” & “Framing of Muslim Youth- A Report from Karnataka” point out such cases where Muslim youths were either falsely implicated or jailed because of the tag of usual suspects. A major chunk of the inmate population is that of Muslims. A total of 21% of the total population consist of Muslims, of whom only 17.7% are convicts and rest undertrial prisoners. The figures points to the discourse of “usual suspects” followed on ground which ends up picking up young muslim youth to be then detained, arrested and incarcerated on the charges of terrorism. While most of the arrests under the tag end up in acquittal but the trend points out to the unhealthy bias that has crept in the law enforcing agencies.

“Just because a handful of police officials of Special Cell of Delhi Police have
given a tag of LeT terrorists to two citizens of our country, this does not become
a conclusive proof of their being terrorists. No doubt that LeT has been
notified as a terrorist organization which has an aim of destabilising our country,
but when a citizen of our country is accused of being a member of such a
terrorist organization, then the agency making such an accusation is supposed to
have substantive pieces of evidence, howsoever ill gotten those evidences may be.”

– Justice Surinder Rathi. Addl. Sessions Judge, Tis Hazari Court
in State vs. Imran Ahmed and Anwar on 26.4.2011

With more gruesome facts to add during the year 2012, 91 undertrial prisoners were in the age group of 16-18 years, 1,17,984 (46.3%) in the age group of 18 – 30 years, 1,06,191 (41.7%) undertrials were in the age-group of 30 – 50 years and 30,591 (12.0%) undertrials were 50 years or above. The startling data reveals a major chunk of this undertrial population are youth in their prime, who remain behind bars because of our inept judicial system which takes so long in doing the paper work and our extremely efficient (pun intended) ground staff in prisons.

Sadly, it is not only the plight of under-trial cases that need to be brought to light. 14,231 – that is the number of prisoners that died in police and judicial custody in India from 2001 to 2010. Most of these deaths are a direct consequence of torture in custody. The issue also rakes up the long pending problem of overcrowding in Indian jails.

Screenshot of Prison Statistics of India 2012
Screenshot of Prison Statistics of India 2012

The data clearly reveals that Chhattisgarh has reported the highest overcrowding (252.6%) followed by Delhi (193.8%), Uttar Pradesh (169.0%), Punjab (133.4%), Meghalaya (131.3%), Madhya Pradesh (127.7%), Arunachal Pradesh (126.8%), Jharkhand (124.5%), Goa (119.5%), Rajasthan (116.6%), Sikkim (114.0%), Himachal Pradesh (105.5%), Kerala (104.4%), Assam (103.7%), A&N Islands (101.5%) & West Bengal (100.7%). These horrific figures point to the callousness with which the jail authorities treat these prisoners, taking away the basic human rights & dignity from them.

Cases with the likes of Rakhi Patra, a woman who sold her 17 months old son to raise the bail money for her husband or that of Mohd Faruq, a juvenile Bangladeshi who came to India with the hopes of a better life but found himself behind bars, accused of banditry, murder and robbery and spent 9 years behind bars facing charges he never committed, or Mohammad Amir, who was wrongly jailed for 14 years on terror charges, are just the tip of the ice berg. The murky corridors of Indian judicial system are filled with stories and lives of young people which the largest democracy of the world sucked through its dismal procedural policies and the rampant belief that the law is above its people.

I cannot resist but take the quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption to express what it actually does to the lives of these people. “These prison walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, gets you depend on them. That’s institutionalized. They send you here for life, that’s exactly what they take. The part that counts anyways.”


Fifty-four years in jail without trial: the plight of prison inmates in India

Prison statistics of India 2012

Take injustice Personally

Muslims comprise 21% of undertrials but only 17.75% of convicts: NCRB

Framing of Muslim Youth- A Report from Karnataka

Case Story I – A Wrongful Conviction Finally Reversed 

Terror accused wrongly jailed for 14 yrs, NHRC notices to Home Ministry, police

You must be to comment.
  1. Ama

    This us the irony of our judicial syste .if u are poor you are thrown in jail even if the charges are not proved…and if you are rich or a pollititian even if you are convicted and given a punishment you still can be granted bails..or let free..The latest Maya knondnani case is a classic example and many such cases exists….It is just name sake judiciary that have which always does a mockery of justice..

    1. babya vithhal

      The Indian Judicial system is Sluggish because we do not have Jury trial systems for cases and provision of Narco test of Accused to find out the truth and collect more evidences.Jury Trial system is there in many Developed nations and gives almost fair judgement in majority of cases.In a Judge system justice is delayed because Lawyers from both parties keep giving arguments which confuse judge so judges keep adjourning dates.In Jury trail Jurors who are common people are more prone to take case towards a justifiable judgement.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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