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Nalsa set to reach out to poor undertrials with free legal aid

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NEW DELHI: The

National Legal Services Authority

(Nalsa) will launch a nationwide scheme creating posts of ‘public defender’ in every district to reach out to poor undertrials lodged for years in prisons for petty crimes and render them free legal assistance to get bail or other entitled relief they have been denied.

Nalsa Executive Chairman and CJI-designate Justice U

U Lalit

, in an interaction with TOI last week, had given an outline of the project. “Instead of undertrial prisoners, who lack awareness and financial wherewithal to engage lawyers, approaching an advocate for legal help, we will create public defenders on the lines of the public prosecutors in each district who would reach out to the underprivileged undertrials languishing in prison for years, even for petty crimes.”

According to

National Crime Records Bureau

(NCRB) data published in 2020, about 76% of all prison inmates were undertrials, of which about 68% were either illiterate or school dropouts.

Of the total 4,88,511 prison inmates, 3,71,848 were undertrials. Interestingly to unclog the prisons and lessen the case burden on trial courts, a bench headed by Justice

Sanjay Kishan Kaul

had on August 5 suggested to the Centre to consider dropping trial proceedings against those who were not involved in very serious offences and had already spent one third of the maximum sentence as undertrial prisoner to free them as one-time measure as India celebrated 75 years of Independence.

The bench had also said that those convicts who had spent more than 10 years in jail and are still waiting for their appeal to be heard should also be released from jail. The SC’s suggestion came just days after

PM Narendra Modi

had said that more and more such prisoners be freed from jail during the ‘Amrit Kaal Mahotsava’.

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