Last year witnessed the highest number of Undertrial Review Committee (UTRC) meetings since 2019 while also recording a steady rise over the last 4 years. While responding to a query by Binoy Viswam (CPI), Law Minister Kiren Rijiju submitted considerable data before the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
Viswam had asked the Law Ministry for details of meetings held by the Under Trial Review Committees years wise since 2019 as well as umber of Under Trial Prisoners (UTPs) released by UTRCs since 2019.
Before looking at the data it is pertinent to look at what is the role of UTRCs and what is their statutory mandate
What is UTRC?
UTRCs are a result of a Supreme Court mandate of 2015. In ‘In Re-Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons’, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 406/2013’ the Supreme Court had, keeping in view overcrowind gof prisons and high number of undertrial prisoners directed National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), along with Ministry of Home Affairs and State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs), to form UTRCs in every district. The Members of the UTRC are:
District and Sessions Judge /Seniormost judicial officer of the district– Chairperson
District Magistrate/Seniormost Administrative officer of the district- Member
Superintendent of Police /Senniro most police officer of the district -Member
Secretary, District Legal Services Authority/ Officer in-charge of providing Legal Aid in the district – Member
Superintendent of Prison/ Officer in-charge of Prisons situated in the district) – Member
What is the mandate of UTRC?
As directed by the apex court in its order dated April 24, 2015, UTRCs are supposed to review the following categories of prisoners:
eligible under Section 436A of Cr.P.C.,
undertrials released on bail but unable to furnish security and
undertrials accused of compoundable offences.
Further, these categories were increased to 14 categories vide the court’s orders dated February 5, 2016 and May 6, 2016.
UTRC was mandated to meet every month as per Supreme Court’s order dated December 4, 2018 in ‘In Re Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons’ from January 2019 to June 2019. This frequency was increased by the court in ‘In Re: Contagion of COVID 19 Virus in Prisons’, Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1/2020 and the UTRCs were to meet once a week to review the situation of prisoners. However, the NALSA Standard Operating Procedure mandates that the UTRC meets quarterly.
What is the review process like?
The review process has been succinctly explained by CHRI in its handbook
Source: Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
Law Ministry’s Data
The data submitted by the Law Ministry indicates a steady rise in the number of meetings held by the UTRC which can be partially credited to the continuous monitoring of the Supreme Court as well. While a total of 3,626 meetings were held in 2019, in 2022 10,321 meetings were held.
There has also been a rise in the number of UTPs released by the UTRCs. In 2019, 12,478 undertrial prisoners were released which went on increasing to 35,480 in 2022.
In 2022, the highest number of meetings were held in Odisha (1,440) closely followed by Karnataka (1,318) and Haryana and Rajasthan with 725 meetings.
The most number of UTPs were released in Karnataka (8,810) followed by Maharashtra (3,757) and Uttar Pradesh (2,654) in the year 2022.
Source: Rajya Sabha
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