India has a long legal tradition and is the birthplace of judicial activism in Asia. Legal infrastructure is in place and legal aid services are set up at national, state and district levels. Yet the national pre-trial detainee rate is 68% out the total prison population. This means that India has one of the world’s largest populations of pre-trial detainees, approximately a quarter of a million people. Whether they are accused or merely suspected of having committed a crime, these people languish in overcrowded, unsanitary and dangerous prisons, often for years at a time.
Sadly, police routinely turn to torture to coerce confessions as a substitute for investigation. According to reports, 14,231 persons died in police and judicial custody in India from 2001 to 2010. The National Human Rights Commission stated that between April 2017 to February 2018, there have been 1530 deaths in judicial custody and 144 deaths in police custody. Four people die everyday as a consequence of torture or mistreatment while in custody.
68% of the prison population are still on remand awaiting trial. “In criminal trials, the process itself is a punishment. Many under-trial prisoners end up doing their entire sentence without getting a full trial,” says Alok Prasanna, an analyst from the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
IBJ’s India program kicked off in 2008 with an International Criminal Defense Training in New Delhi. Four Supreme Court justices including the Chief Justice and 16 High Court judges and over 130 Indian legal aid lawyers, representing 26 of the 28 states in India, participated in the event, with the San Francisco Public Defender’s office providing pro-bono training.
- One Defender Rights Centre (DRC) in New Delhi.
- Trained lawyers in 26 out of29 states
- Handled 1,080 cases
- Conducted 33legal awareness sessions in prisons and informed more than 7,000 detainees of their rights
- Had 5 community legal awareness sessions reaching more than 2,000 people.
- Organised 9 judicial roundtable discussions in which 204 justice officials participated
- Held 19 training sessions which trained 891 legal stakeholders
- India has also been where we have pioneered our eLearning program. We have developed 89 eLearning Modules on the Indian penal process, and are working to develop between 30 and 40 more.
- The creation of precedence:
- Together with prison officials, the ‘Handbook on Prisoners’ Rights and Duties’was created and is regularly distributed to prisoners.
- Training ofprisoners as paralegals: Founding of theParalegal Centre of Ajmer Central Prison, a volunteer organization that works for the release and rehabilitation of prisoners. This has been done in partnership with the Prison Ministry.
- In 2017, IBJ India through its fellow, Aja Verma, sought direction from the Delhi High Court for release of 253 detainees, who have been granted bail but due to their poverty/unable to furnish surety still kept in the remand prison.
- Fostering strong relationships:
- Memorandum of Understanding with the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
- Partnership with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority(DSLSA) and Delhi Prisons(Tihar) for lawyer trainings and prisoner rights awareness.
IBJ seeks further funding for it’s programs in India. Please consider a financial donation. Your contribution will aid hundreds of people. Join us and our courageous defenders as we provide not only counsel but hope to those languishing without a voice. With your help we can create a world where justice is the norm and detention the exception.
More information on IBJ India:
“Psychological Aid for the Undertrials: A Community Outreach Project”was set up between IBJ and the Indraprastha College for Women in coordination with Delhi Prisons.
IBJ India Country Manager Ajay Verma discussing prison reform in India:
Over 200 Inmates Attend IBJ India’s Legal Rights Awareness Event at Tihar Jail:
Profiles of our courageous JusticeMakers working in India:
Garima Tiwari is making a difference educating lawyers about the supreme courts guidelines on HIV/AIDS:
Bijaya Chanda is educating pre-trial detainees and their families on their legal rights in West Bengal:
Please consult our Facebook page on all of IBJ’s current activities around the world: