Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Wednesday, 8 July 2009 13:15 UK

India jails 'overcrowded by 135%'

By Jyotsna Singh
BBC News, Delhi

Tihar jail in Delhi
Delhi's Tihar jail is notorious for overcrowding (Photo: UN Office on Drugs and Crime)

India's jails are severely overcrowded, the government says.

The admission comes amid growing concerns from human rights groups over the issue.

Junior home minister Ajay Maken told parliament "prisons are overcrowded by more than 135%", mainly due to inmates on remand.

Many of India's nearly 1,300 jails are thought to contain at least double the number of prisoners they were originally built to house.

Mr Maken told parliament those awaiting trial made up more than 66% of the prison population.

Such a high number is due largely to the excruciatingly slow pace of India's justice system.

A number of cases have come to light where people have spent more time in jail awaiting trial than they would have served for the offence had they appeared in court and been found guilty.

The government says it has already taken a number of steps to improve the situation, including setting up fast-track courts to speed up legal proceedings.

New jails and additional cells in existing prisons are also to be built to ease congestion.

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