Overcrowding in prisons is one of the many problems responsible for the inhuman conditions prevailing in prisons. The main reason for overcrowding in jails was due to the large presence of under-trial prisoners which constituted about 67 percent of the total prison population in 2007.
In essence this means that if prisons conditions in India have to be improved then reducing the overcrowding of prisons should be the starting point. This in turn means that number of under-trials should come down.
In this regard, the Supreme Court in a memorable judgement on the case commonly referred to as the Common Cause case, gave detailed directions regarding the release of undertrials on bail.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as a follow up in 1999 addressed all the State Inspector General (IGs) of Prisons to take measures in consultation with their High Courts and State Legal Aid Authorities.
The Commission also requested the Chief Justices of all High Courts to issue necessary directions to the magistrates and Sessions Judges, which was reiterated in 2003.
In 2002-03 Union Government launched Modernisation of Prisons scheme for construction of new jails to reduce overcrowding in jails.
Besides, the establishments of fast track courts have been able to reduce the overcrowding in jails considerably.
However, prison reforms will not be meaningful if there are no judicial reforms especially with respect to pendency of cases in courts. This would entail speeding up the trials and police should promptly produce the witness.