Published on: 19 September 2023 at 13:06 IST
In a significant move aimed at expediting the release of undertrial prisoners in India, the Supreme Court of India, in collaboration with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), has initiated a nationwide campaign known as the ‘Undertrial Review Committee Special Campaign 2023’.
The campaign, led by Supreme Court Judge Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, who also serves as the Executive Chairperson of NALSA, officially commenced on September 18 and is set to run until November 20, covering all districts across the country.
The primary objective of this campaign is to streamline and bolster the functions of the Under Trial Review Committees (UTRCs), which were established following the directives of the Supreme Court back in 2015. These UTRCs, comprised of District & Sessions Judges, District Magistrates, Superintendents of Police, Secretaries, District Legal Services Authorities, and prison officials, play a pivotal role in evaluating and recommending the release of eligible undertrial prisoners.
Over the past five years, the UTRCs have reviewed cases and issued recommendations resulting in the release of more than 91,703 prisoners nationwide, out of a total of over 2 lakh inmates, according to a press release from the Supreme Court.
The virtual launch of this campaign witnessed the participation of executive chairpersons, member secretaries, and officials representing State Legal Services Authorities, as well as executive chairpersons and secretaries from the District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs), along with UTRC members.
Justice Kaul, during the launch event, emphasized the persistent concern of undertrial prisoners who remain incarcerated despite their eligibility for review and potential release. This issue has consistently garnered attention before both the Supreme Court and various High Courts across the country.
Highlighting the critical connection between a robust legal aid system, access to justice, and the achievement of sustainable development goals, Justice Kaul referred to these aspects as focal points at the 2023 G20 Summit and integral to the G20 New Delhi Leader’s Declaration. He reiterated that as judges, their responsibility is to ensure the equitable application of the law without discrimination based on factors such as the quality of legal representation.
The ‘Undertrial Review Committee Special Campaign 2023‘ is anticipated to play a significant role in addressing the concerns surrounding the continued incarceration of undertrial prisoners and furthering the cause of justice in India.