The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recently released the crime and prison data for 2019, and they clearly show imprisonment of Dalits, Muslims, and tribals at a disproportionate rate, with a higher percentage than their share in the population. The data also reveals that a religious minority like Muslims is also a community with more under trial than convicts. To simplify, this means that more Muslims are in jail without being declared guilty by the court than those sentenced to serve the prison.
A look at the statistics
Dalits constitute the 21.7% share of all convicts from across the country. The situation of the Scheduled Castes has depreciated as they hold a 21% share of those undertrials, i.e. not proven guilty but serving in jail. The 2011 census says that Scheduled Castes constitute 16.6% of the country’s population, which means that they hold more percentage of the population in prisons than they do outside. With a population share of 8.6%, the Scheduled Tribes constitute 13.6% of those convicted and 10.5% of the undertrials.
A similar trend is seen in regards to the Muslims who hold 14.2% of the population and 18.7% of all undertrials. Their conviction percentage is 16.6%. These fall very short in front of the data of OBCs and the non-marginalized population who form 41% of the population and hold only 34% and 35% respectively as undertrials and convicts.
State-wise data equally surprising
When we look at the state-wise data, the maximum Dalits in undertrial, i.e., jailed without proven guilty are in Uttar Pradesh (17,995), with Bihar (6,843) and Punjab (6,831) trailing it with a vast difference in number. Uttar Pradesh (21,139) again got the highest number of Muslims undertrials, followed by Bihar (4,758) and Madhya Pradesh (2,947). The maximum ST undertrials were in Madhya Pradesh (5,894), with Uttar Pradesh (3,954) and Chattisgarh (3,471) following right behind. Similarly, for the Dalit convicts, UP (6,143), MP (5,017), and Punjab (2,786) are scaling higher than other states. At 5,303, the largest numbers of tribal convicts are in MP, followed by Chattisgarh (2,906) and Jharkhand (1,985). The maximum Muslim convicts are in UP (6,098), and next in West Bengal (2,369) and Maharashtra (2,114).
What do the experts say?
Former chief of Bureau of Police Research and Development, N. R. Wasan commented on this huge disparity and said, “The data show that our criminal justice system is not only tardy but also loaded against the poor. Those who can hire good lawyers get bail easily and also have a fair shot at justice. The poor also tend to get sucked into petty crimes for lack of economic opportunities.”
The Policy Times Suggestions
- The NCRB data has led to a debate on social media platforms where the upper class suggests that these ethnic and religious minorities commit most crimes, and hence they are convicted, but they should not ignore the undertrials who are jailed too. Innocent until proven guilty is not an ideology being followed here.
- The judiciary of India is one of the largest civil courts in the world. One must question why so many cases are pending over the years, with the poor always facing the most troubles.