GOVERNANCECOURTS AND CRIMINAL JUSTICESTRATEGIC INITIATIVES
India has one of the highest number of pre-trial detainees or undertrials in the world. Undertrials make up 67.2% (95.8% male and 4.2% female) of the total prison population, as per the Prison Statistics India Report, 2015. Many are in prison for petty offences, and are too poor to secure bail or pay for lawyers. A majority are either Dalits, Adivasis or from minority communities.
Our Courts and Criminal Justice programme is part of our commitment to ensure access to justice for vulnerable communities. After identifying states where the undertrial population is largest and where there is an interest in addressing the issue at a systemic level, we have chosen Maharashtra to be the first state for our programme. Our focus is to provide high quality legal aid at the earliest possible stage to reduce the number of undertrials and thereby, create a functioning model of legal aid to ensure that undertrials do not languish in jails across the country. The model will involve rapid prototyping of different models of legal support that can be provided to different categories of undertrials.
We are supporting Project 39A of National Law University, Delhi & PRAYAS (a field action project by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to enable around 50 young legal & social work fellows through a ’Fair Trial Fellowship’ program. The fellows will support legal aid lawyers at the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) who represent Undertrials at the prisons in Mumbai, Thane, Latur, Pune & Nagpur.
Our Partners are working with the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA), Judiciary, Prison Department, as well as retired members of the judiciary to create an enabling environment and strengthen the legal aid system
We hope the Fellowship will ensure that young legal and social work fellows in these states are paid, mentored and motivated to offer the best possible legal aid to the undertrials.