Mangaluru, Jul 17: The Karnataka State Minorities’ Commission has sought information on under-trial prisoners serving extended sentences at prisons across the state in a bid to prevent under-trial prisoners from being incarcerated for prolonged periods for minor offences.
Armed with the necessary information, the commission will, with the assistance of lawyers and NGOs committed to such causes, work towards getting them released from prisons.
In Mangaluru on Tuesday, GA Bawa, the newly appointed chairman for the commission, said that a visit to the Parappana Agrahara Central Prison in Bengaluru had alerted him to the prevalence of the problem of overstaying under-trial inmates. “Many inmates are languishing in jail for periods that far exceed the maximum sentence for the crimes they have been charged with. This is because they do not have the money to pay the amount fixed as bond for bail,” said Bawa.
Expressing outrage with many people being arrested and held in jails exclusively on grounds of suspicion, Bawa said, “Many of them are in jail because police have booked them simply because police suspect them of some petty crime. I was a cop myself, and I am not of the opinion that crime must be accepted as part of our societal make-up, or forgiving criminals. But it is inhuman to turn a blind eye to people rotting in prisons for petty crimes, or in some cases based on suspicion, with hardened criminals for company. Those belonging to the latter group may successfully lull them into joining their criminal syndicates and make them part of their gangs.”
The mission that Bawa has set for the commission is to help reform prisoners arrested for minor offences, and integrate them in the mainstream. “I have approached the Karnataka State Bar Council, and informed them about the plight of many of these undertrials. We want to work towards getting them released as early as possible. We have asked officials at the prisons to submit details of inmates serving sentences longer than the maximum punishment stipulated by law every year. Some of the inmates, I was disturbed to learn, have spent up to five years confined within the walls of a prison,” he added.
Anguished by the number of inmates from minority communities serving sentences at the Bengaluru Central Prison, Bawa said, “Of the nearly 4,000 inmates at that prison, around 35 to 40% are members of minority communities, disproportionately larger compared to their population in the state, which is roughly 15%. However, I would like to make it clear that I will be fighting for the rights of all undertrials, regardless of the community they belong to.”
Karnataka Minorities’ commission to aid those languishing in jail for petty offences