ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Undertrial Prisoners in Bihar

A Study of Liquor Ban Arrests

Following the liquor ban in Bihar in 2016, many people from Dalit and Adivasi backgrounds were arrested under the prohibition law. A majority of them were behind bars under exaggerated charges or because of procedural lapses by visiting legal aid lawyers. Most of the undertrials are unable to get released on bail due to their inability to produce suitable sureties or pay the bail amount. There is an urgent need for sociolegal intervention with undertrial prisoners towards ensuring their legal rights.


The findings are based on the intervention initiated by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences Criminal Justice Fellowship Programme to work with undertrial prisoners in Bihar during 2016–19.

The situation of undertrials languishing in prisons continues to be a cause for serious concern in India. Despite various initiatives to address the situation, little has changed on the ground. If anything, their numbers have gone up in recent years, notwithstanding frequent directives from the Ministry of Home Affairs to prison authorities and the Supreme Court’s judgment in 2014 that held that undertrials can be released on bail on personal bonds provided half of the maximum period of sentence has already been spent inside the jail (Hindu 2015).

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data of 2016, 4,33,003 prisoners have been detained in 1,412 prisons across India having a capacity of 3,80,876, that is, there are 13.7% more prisoners than the total capacity (NCRB 2016). There are certain prisons where overcrowding is above 150%, and in one case, it was found to be above 600% (PTI 2018). In terms of occupancy rates, Dadra and Nagar Haveli reported the highest occupancy (200%), followed by Chhattisgarh (189.9%), Delhi (179.8%) and Uttar Pradesh (164.1%) (NCRB 2016). Furthermore, of the 4,33,003 prisoners detained, 2,93,048 (67.6%) are undertrials, which is one of the major reasons of overcrowding in prisons (NCRB 2016). India has the third highest number of undertrial prisoners in Asia, much higher than other democracies across the world where undertrials comprise 15%–20% of the prison population.

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Updated On : 14th Feb, 2020
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