Stuck in jail, 25% poor Muslims can’t even afford a lawyer

Mumbai: The Muslim community is an actual minority in the country, yet it remains the majority in Indian jails.

According to a report published in 2011 by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), it has been found that the more than 25 % of Muslim prisoners in Maharashtra do not have a lawyer to represent their cases.
Four years on, the government has taken cognizance of the report and assured to work on it.

Blame the amount of illiteracy among Muslims for this phenomenon. As per study, the education level among them was 26.8 % being illiterate and 48 % not having any employable skills.

Lack of education may have forced them to become low earners as 42.7 % of them earn between 2,000 to 5,000 only per month.

Lack of knowledge about judicial proceedings, the lack of information of the trial system and lack of influential backing, etc. are all reasons which made them vulnerable to the corrupt system.

Based on a survey conducted in 15 prisons across the state in the year 2010 on the request of the state minorities’ commission, the report has thrown light on the socio-economic conditions of the prisoners and come up with various statistical data of Muslim prisoner in the state.

It has cleared certain misapprehension about Muslims and tries to prove that they are vulnerable to crimes because of their poor economic and social background.

At the time of study, there were 3,086 Muslim prisoners in 15 jails across Maharashtra of which 2,154 (69.7 %) were under trials and 932 (30.2 per cent) were find guilty. Of the 3,086 Muslim prisoners, 339 convicts were interviewed for the study.

“At least 25.4 per cent of the respondents did not have a lawyer to represent them in their case. Among 148 respondents, 70.2 per cent had financial support from their family. This indicates that most respondents are receiving support from their families as far as legal fees are concerned. This reinforces the finding that most respondents are not connected to criminal gangs; otherwise they would most likely have had lawyers financed by these gangs,” the survey said.

Prof. Vijay Raghavan of the Centre for Criminology and Justice, School of Social Work at TISS, who carried out the study together with his colleague Dr Roshni Nair, make more noticeable the need to increase the honorarium paid to legal aid lawyers.

“We have suggested increasing the honorarium for legal aid lawyers in order to provide effective legal aid to
under trial prisoners,” he said.

It has emerged from the study that 52.3 % of respondents’ bail applications were rejected and only 25.6 % were granted bail.

“Of the respondents whose bail was rejected, 48 per cent did not know the reasons behind the rejection,” said the survey. In most of the cases, it was difficult for the inmates to find suitable sureties to get released on bail.
Judiciary is sometimes reluctant to release under trial prisoners on personal bond and they end up stuck in prisons, Mr Raghavan said.