In Jammu and Kashmir, 90 percent prisoners are undertrials, reveals RTI

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Jails across Jammu and Kashmir are overflowing with prisoners beyond their holding capacity, while about 90 percent of the jailed are undertrials. Moreover, less than two percent of all individuals arrested in militancy-related cases have been convicted, The Kashmir Walla has learnt.

The revelations were made by the Director-General of Police (DGP), Prisons Department, Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) in response to a Right to Information (RTI) request filed by two students – Tajamul Islam and Aabid Mushtaq, of the University of Kashmir’s Law Department.

According to the data, 4,131 prisoners — 4,005 men and 126 women — are held in jails across J-K as of 6 December 2020. Of these prisoners, 3,735 are currently undertrial, of which 747 have been arrested in militancy-related cases — merely 1.8 percent of these individuals have been convicted. Overall, a staggering 90.4 percent of the total prisoners are still undergoing trials.

The Central Jail in Jammu’s Kot Balwal holds the highest number of prisoners, 709 as of 6 December 2020, in J-K. While the most number of prisoners – 147, accused in militancy-related cases are lodged in a single facility of Srinagar’s Central Jail.

Currently, against the total intake capacity of 3,660 in J-K’s fourteen jails, however, 4,362 prisoners and detainees are held. Except the District Jails of Bhaderwah, Kishtwar; Sub-jail of Hiranagar; and the Kot Bhalwal Central Jail—all in the Jammu Division—all jail facilities are housing more inmates than their stated capacities. As per the response filed by the office of DGP Prisons, 2,195 undertrials and forty-one convicted prisoners have been released on bail or parole since April 2020.

However, the office of the DGP said it “does not have information about all the prisoners of J-K lodged in prisons outside J-K”. The DGP office only had partial information as they stated that about forty-three prisoners are currently held outside J-K, in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

The proportion of undertrials to convicted prisoners in J-K is much higher than India’s national average of seventy percent in all the jails, according to the 2019 National Crime Records Bureau.

Talking to The Kashmir Walla, Aabid Mushtaq, one of the RTI applicants, said, “The [office of DGP, Prisons, Jammu] has failed to transfer our application to the concerned department that is supposed to have the information of residents [of J-K]  detained outside. This is a complete violation of RTI rules under section 6 (3) and also the PIO (Public Information Officer) is duty-bound to furnish the same information or complete the process.”

“Why is the department denying the information?” he questioned.

Earlier, on 1 April, a three-member high-powered committee, headed by J-K State Legal Services Authority Executive Chairman Justice Rajesh Bindal, passed directions for the release of jail inmates, except those involved in militancy-related cases to decongest the prisons in the Union Territory. Later, the administration further extended their parole as COVID-19 continues to spread.

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