Two Indian States to Issue Lists of Prisoners on Trial

21 April 2013

The chief information commissioner of the Indian state of Maharashtra has ordered the disclosure of the names of prisoners awaiting trial, so-called “undertrials,” who have served half or more of the maximum prison term specified for the charges they face.

State chief information commissioner (CIC) Ratnakar Gaikwad directed the preparation of such a list under section 4 (1) (b) of the RTI Act and set a deadline of May 12 for it to be posted. According to the section, every government department must give out complete information about itself, including details of its employees and their duties, and update it regularly.

The order came in response to an appeal by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi .

The CIC of the state of Andhra Pradesh plans to follow suit, according a report in the Times of India.

The 50 percent mark has special significance because under section 463A of the Criminal Procedure Code the maximum period for which an undertrial can be detained without being released is half of the maximum jail time they would get for the crime for which they are booked.

Gandhi Sparks Action

When Gandhi retired as information commissioner last year he filed a petition to the director- general of prisons asking him how many undertrials were in jail. In an article on Rediff News, Gandhi was quoted as explaining: “I wanted to make it part of the system and not dependent on anyone filing an RTI. They should be released the day they have spent half their possible sentence. His reply was strange. He wrote to me saying that there were 43 prisons in the state and I was free to contact them.”

Gandhi appealed, writing in part, “I plead with the commission to order that the prison authorities should display the updated information every month on their website and also display hard copies of the information in every prison in a place where prisoners have access,” according to a Times of India report.

“I filed a second appeal to the next person above him. Nothing happened. So now I have filed the petition with the state information officer. Let’s see what happens”.

Andhra Pradesh Commissioner Agrees

“We will order the prisons department to immediately make the information on undertrials public under the Right to Information act,” said Jannat Hussain, the Andhra Pradesh CIC.

“Activists said that this would help thousands of such cases reach fast-track courts and speed up the judicial process,” the Times of India article said.

According to the section, every government department must give out complete information about itself, including details of its employees and their duties, and update it regularly.

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