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KGB: 'Prisons are for convicts, not undertrials'

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson and retired Chief Justice of India (CJI) KG Balakrishnan yesterday said overcrowding in Indian prisons can be reduced if the number of undertrials is brought down.

“If a charge sheet is being filed and there is no indication that the accused may influence witnesses or the evidence, what is the reason for keeping him behind bars,” Balakrishnan told IANS on the sidelines of a two-day national seminar on prison reforms.

“Overcrowding of prisons may lead to the violation of various basic human rights of inmates. The prisons are for convicts and not for undertrials,” he said. He also said that steps should be taken to decrease problems in jails. “State governments should invest to build more jails and improve infrastructure,” he said.

He said prisons come under states and the high courts can make a major contribution in directions to state governments on prisoners’ complaints about lack of infrastructure facilities, food, hygiene and healthcare.

NHRC member Justice (retd.) Cyriac Joseph said prisoners were also entitled to basic human rights within the limitations of prisons. Many prison and government officials attended the seminar and informed the participants on the status of the prisons in their respective states.

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