As of December 2020, India's prison population consists of 76.1 percent pre-trial detainees who are locked up as suspects and/or witnesses to crimes, a new study conducted by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has revealed.
The report — 'Guilty Till Proven Innocent?' — stated that amongst Commonwealth nations, India is in the second position with 488,511 individuals in 1,306 prisons as of 2020. Bangladesh leads the list with 80 percent pre-trial detainees.
The CHRI report was released at the Commonwealth's People's Forum of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda on Tuesday. The report aims to call upon the Commonwealth heads of governments to prioritise and initiate action to improve access to justice, reform prison administration and reduce pre-trial detention, because 'innocent until proven guilty'.
"Of the 1.5 million prisoners detained across the Commonwealth, more than 0.5 million are pre-trial detainees. In at least 15 countries, pre-trial detainees form more than half of the total population," Alison Duxbury, the chair of the international board of CHRI, said.
Giving recommendations, CHRI said that laws relating to arrests need to be reviewed, legal aid systems need to be strengthened, time limits on investigations should be put in place, trials and detention and the need to opt for non-custodial alternatives among other things require the government's attention.
The meeting was attended by Union external affairs minister S Jaishankar.