Misleading: Modi government will release Muslim inmates through financial aid announced in the latest budget.

By: Annie Priya
February 6 2023

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Misleading: Modi government will release Muslim inmates through financial aid announced in the latest budget.


The Verdict Misleading

The budget announced financial support to undertrial prisoners who cannot afford bail or penalty amounts. There is no provision for Muslims inmates.

Claim ID b62e52b4


Soon after India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the 2023-2024 Union Budget in the Parliament, Hindi news channel Zee News published an article on its website in Hindi with the headline: “Will the government release Muslim prisoners? Provision of bail and financial help in the new budget?"(translated). The article said that under the new budget, the Indian government would provide financial aid to underprivileged undertrials who cannot pay penalty amounts or afford the cost of bail. This new provision will majorly help Muslim inmates. Screenshots of the article were shared on social media, with the claims that the budget provided for the release of Muslim prisoners.

One Twitter user named Durgesh Pandey shared the screenshot of the article with a caption in Hindi that read, "Modi government will release Muslim, SC (Scheduled Castes), ST (Scheduled Tribes) and OBC(Other Backward Classes) prisoners lodged in jails. Along with this, financial help will also be given. 30% of the Muslim prisoners lodged in the jails of the country, 66 percent of the prisoners belong to SC, ST, OBC communities. How do you see this generous decision of Modi ji? (translated)." 

In Fact

According to the 2023-2024 Union Budget document, the finance ministry only announced support for poor prisoners. The document, which provides all the text of Sitharaman's budget speech, mentions ‘Support for poor prisoners’ on page 11. The description under the subhead numbered 42 simply reads: "For poor persons who are in prisons and unable to afford the penalty or the bail amount, required financial support will be provided." The document does not elaborate further; it does not mention any particular scheme to release Muslim prisoners early, nor does it specify other grounds on which the financial assistance will be made available under the scheme. There is also no mention of distributing financial support to undertrials based on their religion, caste, or creed.

Logically also went through the full video of Sitharaman’s speech in the Parliament presenting the latest budget, which was uploaded on YouTube by the Indian government's Press Information Bureau(PIB) on February 1. In the video, around 25 minutes 55 seconds, Nirmala Sitharaman said, "Support for poor persons who are in prisons and unable to afford the penalty or the bail amount required financial support will be provided." Contrary to what is implied in many social media posts sharing the Zee News article, Sitharaman made no mention of Muslim prisoners or prisoners from minority communities in the speech.

The article published by Zee News reported on the government’s new announcement and then speculated on the prisoners who are likely to benefit from it. The report cited National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data to state that a large number of Muslims could benefit from the new scheme, as the 2021 NCRB data shows that Muslim prisoners nearly 30 percent of the prisoners lodged in Indian jails, while the total Muslim population in India is 14.2 percent. However, the article’s headline has been misinterpreted to claim that Muslim prisoners and prisoners from other communities may be granted financial assistance by the government and released from jail even though the scheme is not aimed at a 

Finance minister’s announcement on financial assistance to prisoners complies with the request made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June 2022. According to a report by The Times of India (TOI), Modi had called for the early release of 3.5 lakh undertrial inmates imprisoned for years due to the lack of prompt decisions in their cases. He also asked the chief ministers of all states and chief justices of the High Courts to come up with a solution to the issue because it had been upsetting people's sensibilities. At the 39th Conference of chief ministers and chief justices, Modi remarked, "It should never be forgotten that people's sensitivity is related to swift justice”, TOI reported. 

Even President Droupadi Murmu, during her speech at Constitution Day celebrations in November 2022, had recommended clearing out jails and providing assistance to destitute inmates. Days after her speech, the Supreme Court also instructed prison officials to give the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) information about such detainees within 15 days so that it could create a national release plan, the Hindustan Times reported.

The Verdict

The Indian government has not made any special provision in the 2023-2024 Union Budget for the exclusive release of Muslim prisoners, nor has it announced any official amount as bail assistance under a new policy. Therefore, we mark this claim misleading.

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