Legal Article

Conditions of under trial prisoners in India

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow


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Published on: 29 Mar, 2023

India has one of the highest prison populations in the world, with over 4.7 lakh prisoners as of December 2021. Of these, a significant proportion consists of under trial prisoners, who are individuals detained in prison while awaiting trial or sentencing. Despite constitutional guarantees and several legal safeguards, the conditions of under trial prisoners in India have been a matter of concern. This blog post will provide an in-depth analysis of the conditions of under trial prisoners in India, along with recent data.

Overcrowding and Poor Infrastructure

One of the most significant issues faced by under trial prisoners in India is overcrowding. Prisons in India are often overcrowded, with multiple inmates sharing small cells designed for one or two prisoners. This leads to a lack of space, poor ventilation, and inadequate sanitation facilities. The lack of adequate infrastructure exacerbates the problem, with many prisons lacking basic facilities such as clean drinking water, toilets, and healthcare facilities.

Recent data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that as of December 2020, there were 4,78,600 prisoners in Indian jails, of which 71.8% were under trials. Additionally, 66.7% of all Indian prisons were overcrowded, with an occupancy rate of over 100%.

Delay in Trials

Another significant issue faced by under trial prisoners is the delay in trials. Many under trial prisoners remain in jail for years, waiting for their trials to begin or for their cases to be disposed of. This delay can be due to various factors such as the backlog of cases, inadequate legal aid, and a shortage of judges.

According to NCRB data, the average duration of under trial detention in India was 193 days in 2019. However, in some states, such as Bihar and Jharkhand, the average duration of under trial detention was over 300 days.

Human Rights Violations

The conditions of under trial prisoners in India often violate their human rights. Many under trial prisoners are subject to custodial violence, torture, and harassment. Additionally, many under trial prisoners are denied access to legal aid, leading to a lack of effective representation in court.

Recent data from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) shows that there were over 3,146 complaints of custodial violence in India in 2020, of which 1,377 were against the police. Additionally, the NHRC received 7,112 complaints of human rights violations in prisons in 2020, of which 1,804 were related to the denial of medical care.


The conditions of under trial prisoners in India remain a matter of concern. Overcrowding, delays in trials, and human rights violations are significant issues faced by under trial prisoners in India. Recent data from various sources such as the NCRB and NHRC highlights the magnitude of the problem. The Indian government needs to take immediate steps to address these issues, such as improving the infrastructure of prisons, addressing the backlog of cases, and providing access to legal aid. Additionally, there needs to be greater public awareness and advocacy to promote the rights of under trial prisoners and ensure that they are treated humanely and fairly.


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