On 20 June 2012, IBJ India’s Duty Lawyer team conducted an interactive session with the inmates of Tihar, of Jail no.4 in New Delhi. IBJ was represented by Mr. Ajay Verma, Mr. Ajay Raghav, Ms. Pallavi Saxena, three interns and a volunteer photographer. IBJ lawyers carried out this important task of raising awareness among the prisoners and to provide them information on the day’s topic: plea bargaining and bail. The session began with Mr. Ajay Verma discussing about plea bargaining, as their right for a speedy trial followed by an interactive discussion with inmates.

There were about 300 prisoners who had gathered for the session, some of their offences ranging from crimes like impersonating in exam to offences like abduction, forgery, and dowry and grievous hurt etc. As the IBJ mandate is to provide access to justice, we started with the most crucial question- Did the inmates have a lawyer to represent their case? As expected, we saw a sizeable number of hands being raised up. IBJ volunteer lawyer Ajay Raghav was willing to take up the cases of those who were unrepresented. With the quantum of undertrial population in India, especially in Tihar alarmingly high, the next obvious question was- How many inmates had applied for bail? Few of the inmates had not applied for it. Ajay Verma explained the provisions to those who were eligible for the same.

The prisoners were also made aware of section 167(2) of the CrPC, the provision that if the police had failed to file charges within the stipulated time frame of 60/90 days from the date of arrest then, the accused had a right to file for statutory bail. Often, the inmates are unable to make use of this provision due to the mistake, ignorance of the lawyer and therefore a format on bail under Section 167(2) were distributed among the inmates, so that they can apply for statutory bail themselves. It also came into light as some of the prisoners claimed that their lawyers after taking money from them as fees did not showed up in their defenses.  Mr. Verma made it clear that if a lawyer takes money and does not show up then a client can report/complain to the bar council against them.

During the session, two information pamphlets relating to the provisions of plea bargaining and bail explaining the provision and the procedures were distributed. The information pamphlets were in Hindi, the language understood by the majority of inmates so as to ensure accessibility of information. Mr. Sumit, a coordinator working for Tihar jail made a list of the inmates without legal representation; these cases will be represented by IBJ lawyer Mr. Ajay Raghav. Further there existed cases wherein some inmate’s bail applications were granted by the court but due to his incapacity to pay for surety are still detained in the prison. A separate list were made of these inmates for which IBJ India will try to find a solution by filing a petition in the Court for the same.

The awareness drive held saw a lot of inmates who participated by discussing their problems with our lawyers and brought a successful end to this event. The inmates often feels neglected detained in the jail for years, so this kind of awareness drive is useful to make them believe that they are not alone, there are people thinking about them, caring for their rights. As is the mandate of IBJ to spread awareness of ones rights and provide legal assistance, we hope, that our endeavor to educate the prisoner about their rights would ensure strengthening of rule of law and ensure that humanity dignity is preserved behind bars.

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