The fate of prisoners under trial in India is abysmal, to say the least. The idea of innocent until proven guilty has been carefully bundled and thrown out of the window. Prisons themselves are the most pathetically maintained spaces offering absolutely no respite. Even if proven guilty, each individual is allowed to live a life of dignity— an idea which Indian prisons do not seem to have an iota of adherence to. Studies over time have shown the corruption that has seeped through the system where trials go on for years, sometimes even decades, ruining the possibility of reviving a normal life or livelihood. What is even starker today is how Indian prisons are failing to provide protection to those under trial as there have been increasing numbers of cases of murders that are plaguing the system.
Only yesterday, a youth who was under trial for a case of petty cheating was shot inside Rohini court by another youth, on the grounds of personal rivalry. This isn't a one-off instance that has come to the forefront. Earlier this year, in April too, a similar incident had unfurled at the same spot in Rohini, when a man undertrial for the suspicion of murder was shot by two men riding by on a bike. In both these cases, the men under trial succumbed to their bullet wounds and lost their lives before being warranted a fair stand in front of the judicial authorities. These incidents of rampant shooting at spaces which are meant to preserve justice and fight criminality is not only ironic but it is also most unfortunate. It taints the entire judicial system of the country, towards which citizens anyway display very little faith. Most individuals would not approach courts because solutions are known to take years, stretching up to a point where the problem does not even remain relevant any longer. Across India, several men under trial have lost their lives due to inadequate security measures meted out to protect their safety.
The truth is, prisoners are treated like vermin in India. That the police exercise a freehand and abuse in the name of interrogation is an open secret to all. Only recently, the bus conductor who was forcefully involved in the Ryan school murder case by the Gurugram police claimed that the weapon was planted on him and the repercussions of his days of interrogation have had an irrevocable impact on his mental and emotional wellbeing. While tangibly, security measures have to be beefed up to prevent unauthorised personnel from wandering around court or prison premises; ethically, the judicial and police system must understand that prisons are not only zones of punishment but also of recuperation. Prisoners deserve their sanctity to be preserved and their dignity to at least be recognised. Their death prior to verdict or irrevocable trauma in the name of meting out justice has to stop. We are a society of modern ethics, not barbaric exertion.