SC ordered to release undertrial prisoners who have completed half of maximum term

Sep 8, 2014 12:25 IST

The Supreme Court on 5 September 2014 ordered to release undertrial prisoners who have completed half their maximum term without the completion of trial.

However, prisoners serving life terms or charged with death penalty will not come under the ambit of this new programme.

Supreme Court announced the two months deadline to examine such cases and to order the release of undertrials. It will start from 1 October 2014.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) RM Lodha ordered that prisons must comply with the law and ordered local judges and magistrates to oversee the process.

The session judge and judicial officers subordinate to CJI will visit jails under their jurisdiction and free all such inmates by passing appropriate orders in the jail itself.

The judgement was based on Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code, which prescribes release of prisoners by a court on a personal bond with or without sureties if he or she has spent half the maximum period of sentence.

This provision, however, has remained ineffective because of lack of awareness and because trial courts press for bail bonds for release.


The move will decongest the overcrowded Indian prisons. The landmark will benefit around one lakh prisoners in jails across the country.

As per the Home Ministry, there were 2.55 lakh undertrial prisoners at the end of 2012. Of this, less than one lakh were charged with heinous offences like rape and murder or booked under terror charges and were, hence, facing life term or the death penalty.

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