The average rate of pretrial detention in India is 20 per 100,000 of the general population, which is less than half the global average. However, as of 2013, the number of pretrial detainees as a proportion of all prisoners is 67.6 %—over twice the global average. This article seeks to understand the causes of such a high proportion of pretrial detention. Answering this question will help evaluate the present governmental response to the problem of pretrial detention. The article begins by examining the laws and practice of pretrial detention in India and then tries to explain the disjuncture between the two by analysing, first, the role of various functionaries, namely the police, prosecutors, judiciary and prison officials; second, the profile of the pretrial detainees and their (in)ability to post bail and, finally, the (in)effectiveness of the existing legal aid system. It posits that while partly a result of relatively low overall convict populations, the high incidence of corruption; shortage of human, physical and monetary resources and governance and lack of coordination contribute to the high number of pretrial detainees in the prison population in India. It then concludes by describing existing solutions and referencing the practice in Pakistan and Bangladesh, which face similar problems and have similar laws and institutional structures.
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The author would like to thank Mr. Martin Schönteich, Dr. Aparna Chandra, Mr. Nauman Asghar and the peer reviewers of this article for their support and assistance. Research for this article was supported in part by the Open Society Internship for Rights and Governance, which is funded and administered by the Open Society Institute (OSI). The opinions expressed herein are the author’s own and do not necessarily express the views of OSI.
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Bhandari, V. Pretrial Detention in India: an Examination of the Causes and Possible Solutions. Asian Criminology 11, 83–110 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11417-015-9218-x