Criminal Justice

The Criminal Justice Initiative (CJI) provides pro-bono and low-cost legal aid service to undertrials and convicted prisoners who are unable to pay for their legal representation. CJI’s work is to defend civil liberties and to create a more humane criminal justice system. The emphasis is on greater access to justice for the poor, workers, disabled, aged, sick, tribal, women, Dalit, juveniles and other minorities.

What HRLN Does


One of CJI’s main focus areas is work inside the prison, as it believes in corrections via jails and prisons, which can only be understood by reviewing prison conditions and capital punishment laws. CJI works with progressive prison administrators and police personnel to set up legal aid clinics in prisons with the objective of representing indigent undertrials. Since 2002, it has been instrumental in setting up a legal aid mechanism for prisoners in Delhi. Though the Indian judiciary uses of death penalty, HRLN strongly believes in its abolition.

Main Concerns

·      Prison conditions
·      Practice of death penalty
·      Legislative, executive and judicial expansion of police powers
·      Organises fact-finding missions
·      Work on rehabilitation for the ex-inmates

HRLN Impact

The CJI team is at the forefront of the reform work in prisons. Strongly condemning custodial torture and violence, its petition in the Bombay High Court asked for improving the visiting condition of prisoners and their families (See: Kavita Kaushik vs State of Maharashtra.)

Another landmark case decided in the Bombay High Court resulted in the release of hundreds of under-trial prisoners, who had been languishing in prisons for far longer than the maximum term of their punishment due to slow court procedures (See: Shabnam Miniwaalla Vs. State of Maharashtra). However, statistics still show that 70% of India’s prison inmates are undertrials and much remains to be done to improve the criminal justice system of the country.
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