Only 20% of 14,400 prisoners are convicted criminals in Tihar, the rest are all undertrials

While there is no woman prisoner on death row, 14 male convicts sentenced to death are lodged in different jails inside Tihar.

In India’s most populated prison, Tihar Jail, only 20% are convicted criminals, the rest are behind bars awaiting start or completion of their trial. The 400-acre correctional facility is the largest and the most populated prison complex in the country.

Currently, there are 2,882 male and 135 women convicts. On June 1, the prison had a population of 14,400. Half of the convicted prisoners are those serving life sentences. There are 1,280 prisoners sentenced to at least 14 years behind bars. One of the oldest prisoners is former youth Congress leader Sushil Sharma involved in the murder of his wife Naina Sahani, in what came to be known as the Delhi’s infamous Tandoor case. Behind bars for the past 22 years, Sharma came out on parole for the first time in 2015 after 20 years.

While there is no woman prisoner on death row, 14 male convicts sentenced to death are lodged in different jails inside Tihar. The four convicts of the 2012 Delhi gang rape case are among them. The four who were convicted by the Supreme Court in May have also been put on suicide watch.


Among the 80% undertrial prison population, there are prisoners who have already spent over five years behind bars.

“We have prisoners who if convicted may be sentenced to maximum 7 years. But, while facing trial they have already served 4-5 years. What if they are acquitted by the court? Who will pay for the time they spent in prison?” an official said.

There are over 80 such prisoners who have served more than 5 years jail time.


Out of the 2,882 convicted prisoners, 912, the highest number of convicts, are those charged with murder. With over 400 convicts, the second most common offence is rape. “Maybe it is easier to secure a conviction in murder and rape cases. Prisoners convicted for dowry harassment is very less. There are only 11 prisoners,” said an official.

The dowry harassment conviction rate of less than 0.50 % is in contrast to the Delhi police registering at least 10 dowry harassment cases every day. Last year, there were 3,877 cases of dowry harassment across the city.


According to jail records, most male prisoners are those between the ages of 21 and 30. Out of over 12,000 male prisoners, more than 7,000 are in their mid 20’s.

In women, the most number of prisoners were in between the ages of 30 and 50. Over 70 prisoners are above the age of 65. Jail officers said that the elderly residents are kept together in a different barracks. The elderly inmates, who volunteered to stay together with other elderly prisoners are given a better diet and assigned ‘friends’ who help them with their chores inside prison.

At least 950 prisoners are those between 18 and 21 years. Mostly first timers, they are lodged in jail number 5. Many of these prisoners have also claimed to be minors before 18 years. Two months ago, the jail officials wrote to Delhi government about 60 prisoners who were below 18 years.


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