This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Can You Imagine Being Jailed For Years As An Undertrial? The Story Of This Man Will Shock You!

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Nusrat Khan:

Let me start by asking you to consider a difficult scenario. I may just be able to convince you that crazy improbable things do happen in this world. Also, if at any point while reading this blog you find yourself confused, don’t worry, this is exactly how I felt when the following events were unfolding.

Imagine being locked up in your house. This might have happened due to a miscommunication between you and other family members, or because they forgot you were inside. Let’s say you’re without any means of communication with the outside world and your neighbours don’t really care. Bottom-line – you’re just stuck for months. None of this is your fault and you have no way to find out how and when you will be able to get out.

take injustice personally.

Personally, if I were in this position, I would be very angry and exasperated because nobody is doing anything to get me out or has even noticed that I am missing. What do you think?

Earlier this year, I met an undertrial prisoner Prajwal (name changed) in Mysore Central Jail (MCJ) who was stuck in a similar circumstance. An undertrial is someone who is in jail pending trial.

I found out about Prajwal’s case through a Right to Information (RTI) application asking for details of undertrials who had spent more than half of their possible maximum punishment in jail without being convicted. Please remember, all throughout the pendency of a trial, an accused person is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. This is a principle enshrined in our justice system.

Just a few other legal details to help you better understand what follows. According to Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, an undertrial who has spent more than half of the maximum punishment for which he may be convicted, has a right to make an application before the court for release on a personal bond – with or without surety. The section also explicitly states an obvious fact: no undertrial prisoner may be kept in jail if he has spent time equal or more than the maximum punishment which he may be granted on conviction. Quite straightforward!
As per the details furnished by MCJ, Prajwal had spent 3 years 5 months and 23 days in jail for an offence which attracted a maximum punishment of 3 years (the RTI response did not specify the offence but only the maximum punishment). My reaction was the same as yours – why is he still in jail? He had after all spent more time than what a conviction would have brought.

Here’s the story of why I went to the MCJ on 12th February 2014. The Jail Superintendent and Jailor initially told me that Prajwal had been released the previous week. I still insisted that I be allowed to go through his prison records purely for research purpose. After some hesitation, I was taken to the Assistant Jail Superintendent who would show me the prison records.

What happened next displays – in a nutshell — how prisoners can and do get lost in the system.

A jail official overheard us talking about Prajwal’s case and told me that he was, in fact, standing outside. I was confused because the Jail Superintendent and Jailor had just told me that he had been released.

The Assistant Superintendent called Prajwal in and through him (and not the jail authorities), I found out that there were 14 cases against him, a majority involving charges of theft. He had spent a total of 4.5 years in jail on account of all these cases. On checking the jail records on paper, we found he had been acquitted in 11 cases (the last being as recent as 6th February 2014). Only 3 cases remained pending in Bangalore courts.

Prajwal was very confident that he had no cases pending against him and that he had also been acquitted in all 3 cases in Bangalore a long time ago. However, he did not have any documents to support this claim. He also couldn’t remember the names or details of the court appointed lawyer representing him in the Bangalore cases.

The MCJ authorities, on being asked about Prajwal’s version, kept referring me back to their records. To them, nothing could challenge what was in those dusty poorly-maintained registers. I left MCJ with 2 contradictory versions of Prajwal’s case status.

If Prajwal was correct about his acquittal in the Bangalore cases, then every second that he spent in jail beyond the last date of his acquittal amounted to unlawful detention.

On returning to Bangalore, I went about verifying Prajwal’s account and my worst fears came true.

I visited the courts where the 3 cases were allegedly pending. After a long day at the court, I found out that all 3 cases against Prajwal had been disposed as far back as 2011 (two on 4th December 2010 and one on 5th May 2011). What disturbed me most was that nearly 4 years later, the prison records at MCJ had not been updated. The jail authorities had no clue whatsoever about this development. Where does one even start to pin down accountability? Do you blame the prison authorities, or the court, or the lawyers, or the police escorts?

Prajwal had already spent 24 days in unlawful detention. He had not been convicted in any of the 14 cases. He could have applied for bail soon after he was detained, but he couldn’t, because of financial constraints and lack of access to good legal advice.

Put yourself in Prajwal’s shoes and try to think about his frustration and anger.

When I contacted MCJ authorities, I learnt that Prajwal had been transferred to the Bangalore Central Jail (BCJ). I rushed to BCJ with certified copies of the judgements in the 3 cases. I brought them to the notice of the Director Inspector General of Police. His first reaction was as expected: “This is not possible.”

We were asked to submit an application stating our account and attaching copies of the 3 judgements. That’s all it took. Prajwal was summoned from his cell. He recognized me instantly and gave me a beautiful smile. On being told that he would be released that very day, he first looked confused, then ecstatic. He was asked to quickly complete his check out/release procedure including property handover, physical verification etc.

I had no idea that he could be released so quickly. I remember asking my colleague: “will they actually release him? Will it happen today?”

They did. And all it took was 45 minutes.

After nearly four and a half years of being in prison as an undertrial, Prajwal walked free. Four and a half years of freedom lost, or freedom regained after four and half years. You decide.

You must be to comment.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Shashi Sinha

By Vineet Ranga

By Ronak Aazad

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below