1,000 prisoners still in jails for not paying up fine

Around 1,000 prisoners are languishing in jail even after completion of sentence due to their inability to pay fine imposed on them, with 60 of them being imprisoned for more than five years.

A little more than half of them, 500 out of the total 993, are lodged in jails across Uttar Pradesh followed by Mizoram. Fourty-one women also languish in Indian jails for heir inability to pay the fine imposed on them in various crimes.

Poverty seem to be the reason for many to remain in jail for their inability to pay the penalty with some of them spending more than double the time of the sentence just for not paying the fine, raising questions about the criminal justice system.

In a case of detention of a convict for more than six years for not paying a fine of Rs 2.1 lakh, the Madras High Court had in 2012 said that to cast a person in prison because of his poverty and consequent inability to pay fine is “appalling”.

The court said putting one in prison to recover debts is “too flagrantly violative” of Article 21 unless there is proof of “wilful failure to pay in spite of sufficient means” and absence of more “terribly pressing claims on his means such as medical bills to treat cancer or other grave illness”.

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Convicts in Jail Due to Non-Payment of Fine after Completion of Sentence

State Below 6 months 6months – Below 1 year 1-2 year 2-3 years 3-5 years Above 5 years Total
Uttar Pradesh 296 37 31 25 83 28 500
Mizoram 44 20 33 11 8 21 137
Punjab 28 26 3 0 0 0 57
West Bengal 40 7 1 0 0 0 48
Kerala 25 3 7 2 5 3 44
Karnataka 4 0 0 0 0 0 4
All India 549 122 100 60 102 60 993

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While 60 of them, including 16 women, are in jail for more than five years, 102 are languishing in jail for three to five years, according to Prisons Statistics India 2015 released recently by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

The highest number of 549 was in the jail for less than six months while another 122 spent six months to one year in jail for non-payment. Between one and two years, there were 100 while 60 were in prisons for a period between two and three years.

After Uttar Pradesh and Mizoram, the states with higher number of such prisoners are Punjab (57), West Bengal (48) and Kerala (45). Karnataka had four such prisoners, who were detained for less than six months in prisons for non-payment of the monetary penalty.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 7, 2016)

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