The Modi government is pushing for implementation of prison reforms across the country and the release of thousands of undertrial prisoners languishing in jails for longer than the number of years they would have been sentenced to if convicted.
The Union law ministry has written to chief secretaries of at least a dozen states to immediately migrate to e-prisons, a software developed by the Centre to integrate all prison data across the country in an attempt to roll out long-pending prison reforms and ensure release of undertrials booked for petty crimes. “The government is committed to ensure that every accused receives a fair trial and does not languish in jail longer than is absolutely necessary,” the letter said.
Out of an estimated 4.18 lakh prisoners across the country , 67% or about 2.82 lakh are undertrials, many of them booked for petty crimes like theft. Less than 1.28 lakh in jails are those who have been convicted and are serving their sentence.
Despite repeated reminders to states, the central government has not received any data from any of them. In aletter to chief secretaries of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Odisha, J&K, Uttarakhand, Goa and the north-eastern states, the law ministry asked them “to ensure use of eprisons software for efficient management of prison information system”.
The home ministry is closely working with the law ministry to implement prison reforms. Gujarat, Jharkhand, Haryana, Odisha, Goa, Nagaland and Manipur are some of the states where the maximum number of prisoners are undertrials.
Though 20odd states and Union Territories have already shifted to the new software, there are some which are still reluctant to install the e-prison software.
This software constantly updates prisoners’ data along with information on the stage of their trial, as well as period of sentence served, if convicted.
The special software developed by the Centre was first test-checked successfully in Tihar jail as a pilot, but is yet to be installed by all states in their prisons. The software creates an alert the moment an undertrial completes half his prison term without bail for an offence he has been charged with.