Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Saturday said that hasty and indiscriminate arrests, prolonged incarceration of undertrial prisoners along with difficulty in getting bail needs urgent attention, PTI reported.

“In the criminal justice system, the process is a punishment,” Ramana said while speaking at a legal services’ meet organised in Jaipur. “We need a holistic plan of action, to increase the efficiency of the administration of criminal justice.”

However, he clarified that aim should not be limited to allowing undertrial prisoners to be released early. “Rather, we should question procedures which lead to such prolonged incarceration in huge numbers without a trial,” he said.

Nearly 80% of 6.1 lakh inmates in the country are undertrial prisoners, Ramana said.

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The chief justice described the prisoners as one of the most vulnerable sections of the society.

“Prisons are black boxes,” he said. “Prisoners are often unseen, unheard citizens.”

Ramana said that their prolonged separation from family and society could lead to a detrimental impact on their mental health.

At Saturday’s event, Ramana also raised concerns that the “space for Opposition is diminishing” in the country, the Hindustan Times reported.

He noted that there was a time when the Opposition played a stellar role in the legislature. “There used to be mutual respect between the government and opposition,” the chief justice said, adding that laws are now passed without scrutiny.

“Instead of engaging in meaningful debates for furthering democracy, politics has become acrimonious,” Ramana said. “The diversity of opinion enriches polity and society. Political opposition should not translate into hostility, which we are sadly witnessing these days. These are not signs of a healthy democracy.”