Speed up release of undertrial prisoners: PM Modi

Ease of justice was equally important as ease of living as India celebrates the 75th year of its independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday as he urged the judiciary to expedite the release of undertrials languishing in various jails.

Addressing the first All India District Legal Services Authorities Meet here, Modi said citizens have immense faith in the judiciary and access to the judicial system is equally important as the delivery of justice for any society

“This is the time of ‘Azadi ke Amrit Kaal’. This is the time for the resolutions that will take the country to new heights in the next 25 years. Like Ease of Doing Business and Ease of Living, Ease of Justice is equally important in this Amrit Yatra of the country,” he said at the conference, which was also attended by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana.

The Supreme Court has spoken on several occasions on the need to be sensitive towards the humanitarian issue of undertrial prisoners, he said and added that the District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs) can take up the responsibility of providing legal aid to such prisoners.

The District Judges, as Chairpersons of undertrial review committees, can expedite the release of undertrial prisoners, the Prime Minister said.

Lauding the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) for undertaking a campaign for the release of undertrial prisoners,he urged the Bar Council to encourage more lawyers to get involved in this campaign.

According to the ‘Prison Statistics India’ report published by the National Crime Records Bureau in 2020, there were 4,88,511 prison inmates of which 76 per cent or 3,71,848 were undertrials.

Highlighting the place of legal aid in the Directive Principles of the State Policy, Modi said this importance is reflected in the faith of the citizens in the Judiciary of the country.

“As important as access to the judicial system is for any society, justice delivery is equally important. The judicial infrastructure also has an important contribution to this. In the last eight years, work has been done at a fast pace to strengthen the judicial infrastructure of the country.

Underlining India’s leadership in information technology and fintech, the Prime Minister stressed that there cannot be a better time to introduce more power of technology to judicial proceedings.

“Under the e-Courts Mission, virtual courts are being started in the country. Courts have started functioning round the clock for crimes like traffic violations. Video conferencing infrastructure is also being expanded in the courts for the convenience of the people,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that more than one crore cases have been heard through video conferencing in the country.

“This proves that our judicial system is committed to the ancient Indian values of justice and, at the same time, is ready to match the realities of the 21st century,” Modi said.

He further said “a common citizen should be aware of his rights and duties in the constitution. They should be aware of their constitution, and constitutional structures, rules and remedies. Technology can play a big role in this too.”

The two-day meeting of DLSAs, organised by the NALSA, began here on Saturday. Besides Modi and Ramana, the inaugural session was attended by Supreme Court judges U U Lalit, D Y Chandrachud, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, and Minister of State for Law SPS Baghel.

Other Supreme Court Judges, Chief Justices of High Courts, Executive Chairpersons of the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs) and Chairpersons of the DLSAs were also present.

The meeting will deliberate on the creation of an integrated procedure to bring homogeneity and synchronisation across DLSAs.

There are a total of 676 DLSAs in the country, each headed by the District Judge. NALSA implements various legal aid and awareness programmes through DLSAs and State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs).

The DLSAs also contribute towards reducing the burden on courts by regulating the Lok Adalats conducted by NALSA.

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