As of February 14, 2021, there are 6,734 prisoners lodged in different Telangana prisons as against its sanctioned capacity of 7,742.
A 57-year-old man, booked under theft and criminal intimidation charges by Medipally police, has been in jail since August 2018. Despite securing bail from the Metropolitan Sessions Judge LB Nagar, he is unable to leave the prison.
Similarly, a 28-year-old has been behind the bars since October 2019 in connection to a theft case in Bommaraspet police station limits in Mahabubnagar district. Despite securing bail from JMFC Kodangal, he too is unable to go home. So is the case of a 19-year-old who has been charged under NDPS Act in Chilkalguda police station and remanded to judicial custody in April 2020. Despite securing bail from MSJ Hyderabad, he is unable to leave. The list of such persons accused in various crimes and languishing in Telangana jails is long.
A response to a Right To Information (RTI) petition from the Telangana prisons department reveals that 429 undertrial prisoners who have been granted bail by the respective courts continue to stay in prison due to their inability to pay the bail amount or provide surety. The collated information furnished by Inspector General of Prisons, B Saidaiah, reveals that most of the prisoners have been in jails from 2019 and 2020.
Sridhar Rao Maddela, a private citizen who filed the RTI petition, said frequent news reports of rejection of bail by courts across the country prompted him to think of those who have been granted bail but are unable to leave the jail. The response dated January 23, 2021, also cites a few cases where the accused, charged with rape of minors, have been languishing since 2017 and 2018 despite securing bail.
While the socio-economic backgrounds of these prisoners are said to be the prime reason why they are unable to leave the jail despite securing bail, this situation also leaves a deep psychological impact on them. Prison officials say that such accused persons are often upset at their fate, angry, dejected, or depressed giving a tough time to the staff.
A person accused of a crime has a right to defend him or her and also apply for bail, said Telangana Advocates JAC convener Mohammed Wali-ur-Rahman, who also pointed out that hundreds of cases are piled up across the country where despite bail, an accused is unable to leave the jail.
For instance, the situation is no different in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state too. In an RTI response from the Andhra Pradesh Prisons Department to an activist Tharun Bathini, the Inspector General of Prisons G Jayavardhan said that there were 420 undertrial prisoners presently unable to pay bail amount or provide surety and hence unable to leave despite securing a bail. As of December 28, 2020, there were 5446 undertrial prisoners in Andhra Pradesh state.
“The reason in most cases is the inability of the accused to pay the bail amounts or find sureties,” said Rahman. Surety holders are usually ‘responsible persons’ who stand to guarantee that the prisoner will attend the trial hearings and also return to jail on completion of the bail period. In the absence of failing to fulfill such conditions, the accused remains in jail till the next hearing or till they can produce the surety.
“That is between the prisoner, his/her lawyer, and the court. It is for the Magistrate to decide if he/she can be granted bail and left without producing sureties. On our part, we try to impress upon the Judges. They frequently visit the prisons and are aware of the situation,” said a senior Prison department officer. In some cases, people hesitate to come forward and stand for the accused. “Sometimes, it is due to the gravity of the crime that people think why they should get involved. Most of these accused persons are extremely poor,” he stated.
As of February 14, 2021, there are 6,734 prisoners lodged in different Telangana prisons as against its sanctioned capacity of 7,742. Among them, a total of 4,433 prisoners, including 267 women, are under trial or remanded to judicial custody. Another 33 male and five female prisoners of foreign nationalities are also currently facing trial and lodged in Telangana prisons. Besides, 1,859 male and 123 female convicts are also serving their sentences.
When asked about the plight of such undertrial prisoners who are granted bail but unable to come out of jails, the director-general of Prisons Rajiv Trivedi said it is natural that they feel dejected. “If you don’t get something you are entitled to, you feel bad. Such prisoners get uneasy, that for this technical reason they are unable to leave. We understand their position and try to help them be calm. We speak to their lawyers, the officers of State and District Legal Services Authority, and the Magistrates to help them,” he said.
Manjusha Ettavoni, a legal-aid panel advocate with the Hyderabad District Legal Services Authority, said that families of the accused, at times, disown them as they find it pointless to support him or her. According to her, the public prosecutors should support when the legal services authority file for reduction of surety amount and not dismiss the accused as habitual offenders who are better off inside the jail.
“We have been entrusted with some cases for reduction of surety amounts. Firstly, we speak to the prisoners and find out their capacity to pay. We speak to their relatives to see if they can arrange the amounts. Otherwise, we look for sponsors so that they can come out and the trial can go on,” she said.
Several social, religious, and political organizations that used to come forward earlier to sponsor such accused with respective bail amounts have stopped doing so as the offenders go back to old ways of committing offenses, said Amjedullah Khan, a former GHMC corporator and spokesperson of the old-city-based Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT). “There are so many persons languishing in jails for six and eight months for want of Rs 1000 or Rs 2000 as bail bonds. If the government identifies such persons, we are ready to take up the job of finding sponsors,” said Khan.
Another advocate, who earlier worked with the district legal services authority, pointed out that jailors should take the lead and coordinate with the jurisdictional police stations in identifying if the accused is a first time offender who committed the crime in heat of the moment and may not commit another crime.
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