imprisonment meaning
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The article is wriiten by Shruti Singh. The author has enumerated the provisions of imprisonment specified under the relevant sections of IPC, CrPC and Indian Constitution.


Imprisonment is the word which means taking away the freedom of prisoners when they are punished by a court of law. They are locked up in prison and all the rights are taken away they are not given any rights which are under Article 21 or 32 of the Constitution of India. They have to stay in jail till the end of the imprisonment given by the court of law before that they are not allowed to be released from the jail. 

Types of Imprisonment  

  1. Mandatory imprisonment- When any person commits a crime it becomes mandatory to give him/her punishment for that crime because if the person who commits crime are left with no punishment he will become dangerous to society it harms whole public. This is the reason criminals are not kept free after he commits any crime they have to face imprisonment. 
  2. Maximum sentences- The person who commits crime they got life imprisonment and the duration of life imprisonment is decided by a court of law. The minimum life imprisonment is 14 years but it can extend upto 30 years of life imprisonment.
  3. Minimum life imprisonment- The minimum life imprisonment is for 14 years. It is decided by the Supreme Court of India.
  4. False imprisonment- Many times people unlawfully caught by the police and get imprisonment because of false crime.

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Life Imprisonment Meaning

Life imprisonment means the whole life in prison. Prisoners has to end up their life in prison. They have no other options of release. According to the Supreme Court life imprisonment means jail term for the prisoner for entire life. 

  •  There will be no release before fourteen or twenty years of life imprisonment. 
  • The prisoner has no such right as to release.
  • The period of life imprisonment cannot be reduced. It cannot be less than 14 years.

Under what cases life imprisonment can be granted under IPC?

The report is based on the punishment of imprisonment for life in the Indian Penal Code. Itdeals with the sentence of imprisonment for life which is rigorous or simple. The State Government has clarified the law on imprisonment for life in this report. This report is made by the Law Commision of India for the clarification of law. According to this report, the offences under Indian Penal Code have come into effect in the year 1956 on 1st of january. And the Code of Criminal Procedure came into Existence in the year 1955. After this report two old laws were replaced namely punishment of transportation for life.

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Purpose of Imprisonment

There are five purposes of Life imprisonment:

  1. Punishment: when any person commits a crime, they are punished by a court of law then put in the jail that deprives them of all their freedom and removes them from their society. Punishment may change the person into a good person and return their fundamental freedoms and also give them a chance to live in society freely with their family members. Sometimes it also provides them work so they again, don’t commit a crime. So punishment is important for the criminals. 
  2. Deterrence: deterrence is another type of punishment for the offenders so that they don’t repeat their crime again because punishment teaches values to the offender and give them an opportunity to change themselves and transform them into a law-abiding citizen. 
  3. Public protection: when any person commits big crime like murder or rape, they have to face life imprisonment as ordered by the judge. This is the only reason we can protect the public from these criminals. 
  4. Rehabilitation: rehabilitation means when a prisoner is ready to accept the crime he has committed and take some necessary steps to change themselves in that case the government chooses to give them an opportunity, in prison itself, to change.  
  5. No other choice: after committing crime prisoner have no choice of release they have to face imprisonment.

Case laws

The  High Court of Jammu and Kashmir vs State of J&K & others 

  1. The details of the petitioner about the period of the sentence was given in paragraph 1 which petitioner has undergone till 31.05.2012
  2. If we want to deal with the issue of the case in the right way and reach to the conclusion of the case.

Here are some of the questions to discuss through which we can deal with the case in the right manner. 

  • Whether life imprisonment means entire natural life or 20 years of life imprisonment?
  • Whether a life convict can be released automatically after completion of twenty years without any orders from the state, including the jail authorities?

When I went through the provisions of the law, I reached the conclusion that life imprisonment means imprisonment for life and it does not automatically come to an end without any order from the competent authority.

Some more related cases with a similar matter came up for consideration before a division bench of this court. 

Md. Munna vs Union Of India & Ors on 16 September, 2005 

Facts of the case:

The writ petition is filed under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. The petitioner was found guilty of murder.  And previously he has already got imprisonment for life for 21 years. In this petitioner claimed that life imprisonment should be equivalent to 20 years and further subject to remission admissible under law.   

Life imprisonment in India

Under article 72 and 161 CrPC life imprisonment means the entire life in prison which is guaranteed under the Code of Criminal Procedure. The minimum duration of life imprisonment is of 14 years and also commuted the death sentence to the prisoner.     

Judicial precedents on duration of Life imprisonment

Case laws:

Maru Ram Etc. Etc vs Union Of India & Anr on 11

Facts of the case:

This case is based on the power of remission act under article 72 and 161. Revisiting the law on remission – The Hindu. In this case the Constitutional Validity of Section 433-A of the Criminal Procedure court, 1973 was upheld. Petitioner has filed a case alleging the provisions of Article 14, 20(1), 72, and 161 of the Constitution of India.Landmark judgment

Rajiv Gandhi assassination case

Facts of the case:

On the date of 25.5.1991 Rajiv Gandhi with his former Prime Minister of India faced a terrorist attack with a human bomb. There were more than 15 persons and 9 policemen including 43 persons get severely injured by this terrorist attack. When the investigation started, police officials found some footprints of the criminals. Criminals are caught after the testing of footprints and they are punished under Terrorist and Disruptive activities act, Indian Penal code, Explosive Substances Act, Arms Act, Passport Act, Foreigners Act and the Indian Wireless Telegraphy act. 26 persons has to face the criminal trial and others are commited suicide because of threat of trial. The court has 288 witness against those terrorists during the trial. All the terrorist has to face death sentence.    

Case law on power of remission

Gautam Dutta vs State of Jharkhand 10 Feb, 2016

Facts of the case-

The boy named Atif Mustafa get kidnapped intentionally and the kidnappers murdered him and disposed of his body to protect themselves from the criminal trial. M.D Safique is already in the court trial. During the court trial court find about his second crime of kidnapping a boy with his three friends. Court find them and convicted them for the offense of kidnapping which is punishable under section 364a ,120b ipc.

Case laws

Kehar Singh And Anr. Etc vs Union Of India And Anr on 16 December …

Facts of the case:

Kehar Singh filed a petition against his conviction and death sentence because of the murder. But on the 14th of october his brother presented a petition to the president of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi for the grant to pardon the death sentence by proving his innocence.

Union of India vs Sriharan

The apex court held that,  when we refer to the punishment provided for the offense under 376A or 376D while prescribing life imprisonment as the maximum punishment that can be imposed, it is specifically stipulated that such life imprisonment would mean for the remainder of that period.

Gopal Vinayak Godse vs The State of Maharashtra 

The Hon’ble SC held that a sentence of transportation for life or imprisonment for life must prima facie be treated as transportation or imprisonment for the whole of the remaining period of the convicted person’s natural life.  

Double Life Imprisonment in India

 Like everyone human being has one life, as prisoners has also one life to live so prisoners cannot serve consecutive sentences of life imprisonment. But according to Supreme court constitutional bench life sentence would be twice or thrice of the heinous crimes like rape murder, etc. The court said that multiple life imprisonment will be served consecutively. Chief Justice of India has interpreted the law that in multiple imprisonment prisoners would be anomalous and irrational. 

In a first, rare double-death and double-life sentence for man who raped, murdered 2-year-old girl. 

In Nagpur city the 21 year old man raped her 2 year niece and murdered her. The case was filed in the Bombay high court. The sentence was the first of its kind, given under Section 376A of the Indian Penal Code, under an amendment made in light of the gruesome Nirbhaya rape case in delhi( 2012 Delhi gang rape). The Nagpur bench confirmed the rare double-death and double-life sentence to the 21 year old man. In the Divison Bench, comprising Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Prasanna Varale confirmed the verdict of a Yavatmal sessions court sentencing Shatrughan Masaram to death for raping and murdering his two year child.  

Report On The Punishment Of Imprisonment For Life 

This is the thirty-nine report of the law commission on the subject of life imprisonment for life under the Indian penal code. Some time ago the Ministry of Home Affairs asked question to the Law Commission of India about the punishment of life imprisonment in India. This question was asked because the State governments wanted clarification on this subject matter and because IPC and CrPC were under revision.  

What is in the Constitution?

In the Constitution of India it is now mentioned that the sentence of life imprisonment will be of 14 years. In any crime culprit will be punished according to their crime and it will be decided by the court that punishment will be given to which culprit. For the serious crime like murder and rape, culprit will get life imprisonment or death sentence in any manner. There will be no pardon of life imprisonment and death sentences.

This decision is taken in the year 2012 by the Supreme Court of India and life imprisonment is not limited it can extend upto 25 years. Culprits cannot claim regarding their release from the prison and neither their family or friends. Constitution of India mentioned rules and regulations regarding life imprisonment

  1. Life imprisonment is 14, 20 or 25 years. 
  2. It can extend upto whole life. 
  3. Life imprisonment can go till the end of life. 
  4. After the life imprisonment culprit has to face all the circumstances in the jail.
  5. They cannot claim about their release. 
  6. Life imprisonment cannot be pardon. 

There are some reasons behind 14 years of life imprisonment.

Under section 432 and 433 of the CrPC it is mentioned about the 14 years of life imprisonment. This is a very serious misconception about 14 years of life imprisonment in India. Because life imprisonment is not limited to 14 years. It can extend as much as the action of the prisoner. Life imprisonment is dependent on the action of the prisoner. Life imprisonment can be reduced if the prisoner proves themselves in prison. Death sentence can also be pardoned in the case of prisoner’s action and reaction noticed in the prison. Otherwise there life becomes hell in prison if they don’t act nicely in the prison. The convict can be released, first they have to fulfill some of the conditions of the prisons. 

List of offenses liable for Life Imprisonment 


SL. No






Waging, abetting against the government of india. 

Life imprisonment and death sentence.



Abetment is committed in other consequences.

Death and life sentence for 10 years or fine 



False evidence shown in the court during the court proceedings.

Death sentence, life imprisonment and fine can be charged as  decided by the court. 



Murder is mentioned in this article.

Death sentence, life imprisonment.







Dacoity in murder or more number of murders are caused.

Death sentence or life imprisonment or fine. 


Indian Penal code has 34 sections which talks about the offences which are punishable with imprisonment of life or death sentence or fine. For this offence there is no maximum limit for the imprisonment.

Punishment has no uniformity. It get changed, according to the crime caused. It can extend for whole life. It could be of 7 years, 10 years, 14, 20, 25, 30 or for whole life till death. Here I mentioned some more offenses:


SL. No






Planning of committing crime is also an offence.




Use of armed war illegally without the permission of Government of India is a punishable offence.




Using of war in asiatic war against Government of India 




Prisoner try to Aiding or trying to rescue from the prison or try harbour any prisoner is an offence.




Trying to distract or seduce any soldier or airman from his duty is a punishable offence.




Showing false evidence in the court for the procure evidence of the capital offence.




If any person tries to omit any public servant who is under sentence or lawfully committed.




Try to obstruct or resist lawfully any other person is an offence. 




If Indian coins are counterfeited is an offence. . 




Importing or exporting counterfeits of Indian coin is an offence. 




Government coins cannot be counterfeited. 




Being a wrong thing of any crime is also considered as an offence.




Abortion or misscarriage is a serious offence. 




If someone killed any woman for the misscarriage. 




Cause damage by the weapons to any other person intentionally.



How many years is a Life Imprisonment

Years are not fixed for life imprisonment. It is for whole life also. Because of Life imprisonment  prisoner can get death penalty if he or she has committed henious crimes like rape and murder. For this type of crime Supreme court said prisoners will get double-prisonment. There is no uniformity in the life imprisonment. Life imprisonment is for 14 years. It may also last for 25 years. It depends on the type of crime committed by the prisoner. Prisoner has no right of the release. This is a very big misconception in Indian law that Life imprisonment can only of 14 years it can extend by noticing the action of the prisoner in the prison. It can be  reduced if prisoner proves themselves guilty of not doing the crime. Its minimum limit is 14 years. 

Section 57 of IPC

Case laws:

  1. Lakkhi vs The State of Rajasthan

 Facts of the case

This case is based on the years of life imprisonment. Prisons Act, 1894, Prisons Rule, 1958, Rajasthan Prisons Rule, 1958 and Rajasthan Prisoners Release on Parole Rules, 1958 has some different statutes and rules different from the provisions of CrPC, IPC and Constitution of India. There are different sections of IPC like section 53, section 57, section 511 in which different types of life imprisonment are defined. And in the section 432 and 433, CrPC suspension and remission is defined. The government imposes power of remission in certain cases. Power of remission is mentioned in the section 433 and 432 in the CrPC.

 Some more cases are referred: 

 Facts of the case:

The editor of the Statesman newspaper copyright the words of the leading article of Earl of Lytton. Because of this plaintiff Subhash chandra Bose sues the defendant on this issue. 

But in the month of october Local government of Bengal has got the power from the Governor-General to arrest the person who believed to be guilty of the crime and arrest them and lodged in the jail. 

What can be the reason for the release of prisoners?

There are many reasons when prisoners can get release:

  1. When any person wrongly caught for any crime then he can get release.
  2. If any person change themselves and prove themselves in front of police that they will not commit any other crimes then he can get release.
  3. If any women in the period of life imprisonment get pregnant or she has any other reproductive problem then she can be released.
  4. Before 14 years no prisoners get released.    

Comparison with other countries



Life imprisonment

Minimum duration

Maximum duration

Indefinite sentence

Mandatory sentence

Other crimes

Under age crminals


Death penalty



Terrorism-22 years life imprisonment. For

Murderof a police officer-25 years of life imprisonment.





By governor 




15 years




Murder, drug dealing, nazi activism, etc

Under 16 years of age- 10 years

16-17-15 years

18-20- 20 years

By president 




15 years





Under 12- no punishment

12-15- detained till the age of 20

16-17- 30 years

Parole by conditional release, commission or pardon by king




Depends on the sentence

12 and 30 years



No life imprisonment sentence



Only in times of war

Impact of Life Imprisonment

Effects of prison:

Prisoners has a very bad effect of the prison in their life. Prison’s main aim is to cure the criminals and make them a good person so they can live in the particular society with normal people with full freedom. Prisons have their own culture, rules and regulations. Prisoners has to follow the rules and regulations of the prisons and they have no choice in their life. They always have a fear of deterioration.

They lack personal choices and they have to work according to the prisons rules. They have to dedicate their lives to the prison. But some people in the prison get completely changed or unscathed by the prison experience. As we see prisons are very painful, and incarcerated persons suffer very long-term imprisonment and because of that are affected with a lot of pain, deprivation, etc. 

  • Effect of prison in children 

Thousands of children are, every day, locked up in the prison due to different reasons. They are locked up with adults. In some of the prisons youth get the quality education in the prison to make him a good person and can be relieved from the prison after a short period of time. This type of prisons are also called as schools.

Health facilities are also provided to the children in the prison. They are cared for in the prison in every manner possible. Many youths are facing solitary confinement for only 22 to 24 hours. This punishment is very harsh on children because they have to face physical injuries, emotional trauma and many more things.

The death penalty for young offender is banned by the Supreme Court of India. Because below the age of 18 youth are immature, irresponsible. This is very important for young prisoners to be treated nicely and help them to improve themselves with feelings  of happiness and joy. If they are not treated well, they can face severe mental trauma. It can also affect their life very badly.    

Case law

Raju vs. State of UP & another

Facts of the case:

This case is related to Protection of Children Act and THE JUVENILE JUSTICE (CARE AND PROTECTION OF CHILDREN. In this case there were two boys named Raju and Ashish who are bullies and goondas of the area. They ever-tested and molested the daughter of defendant. Then the brother of the girl came at the scene and tried to protect her but Raju and Ashish pushed both of them into the pool.  

  • Effect of prisons in women

According to the Criminal Justice System women are supported in the prison. They are treated well in prison. Female prison population in India is 53%. They are increasing day by day. The reason for the increase in women’s population in prison is, they get involved in drug trade. The women who belongs from lower community they generally get involved in drug trade because of shortage of money, shortage of food etc.. They don’t have houses to live so they have to get involved in this trade forcefully because of their families. This trade destroy the life of a woman because of this their children get harmed.

Difference between Women and Men Prisoners


Woman in prison 

Men in prison

  1. Women’s prison- 84%

Men’s prison- 76%

2. Offences- theft, involved in drug trade.

Offences- robbery, sexual offences, fraud, drugs, and motoring offences

 3. 80% theft because of shoplifting.

Because of many reasons. 

  4. 28% woman’s crimes were financially motivated.

20% of men. 

 5. Sentenced woman- 22%

Sentenced men- 12%

  6. TV licence evasion accounted-36%

Men- 6%




Psychological effects

The prison was originally designed to allow prisoners to rediscover themselves like conscience and better voice through conversion. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that it is a form of torture because it ended up causing many prisoners adverse psychological effects such as:

  1. Delusion 
  2. Dissatisfaction with life
  3. Claustrophobia 
  4. Depression 
  5. Feeling of panic
  6. And on many instances madness
  7. Stress
  8. Denial
  9. Nightmares and the inability to sleep
  10. Phobias 
  11. Substance abuse
  12. Criminal activity
  13. And some forms of self-destructive behavior
  14. Guilt 
  15. Shame 
  16. Suicidal tendencies

Other effects are

  1. Depend on institutional structure and contingencies
  2. Interpersonal distrust and suspicion
  3. Emotional over-control, alienation, and psychological distancing 
  4. Social withdrawal and isolation.
  5. Incorporation of exploitative norms of prison culture.
  6. Diminished sense of self-worth and personal value.
  7. Post-traumatic stress reactions are shown in the prisoner during the pain of prison.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Life Imprisonment 


  • If a person commits a crime like rape or murder, it gives a very serious impact on the life of victim or victim’s family because of this their lives get destroyed. So accused get life imprisonment or death sentence.
  • Capital punishment means if legallly someone is  killing someone then as a punishment takeing the life of the person is not valid. 
  • Life imprisonment gives a chance to the criminals to realize their mistakes so their life imprisonment or death sentence can be pardoned or remitted. 
  • Prisons give chance to prisoner to study and explore themselves in good works they provide them employment so they can change the prisoner to release them from the prison. 
  • Prisons for youth is very favorable. They try to help them with all the facilities and guidelines to improve them and support them so they can live in the particular society with normal people. 
  • Prisons provide good food and health facilities and many more facilities to the prisoners to change themselves or to live a happy life. 
  • Many prisoners get released of their change and they are allowed to live in the particular society and with a job, so they can earn something for their own lives and change their life and their family’s life. 


  • Life imprisonment cannot be given to prisoner for capital punishment as they are not only responsible for the crime. This is the biggest mistake it can make the prisoners’ life hell. 
  • Capital punishment is the way in which we can pass some messages to the normal individual. 
  • Capital punishment help to remove dangerous criminals from society making it a safer place for the people. 
  • Life imprisonment can help people from the discrimination which they are facing in the society due to their crime, which should be corrected by giving capital punishment to murderers.

Life Imprisonment vs Death Penalty


Life imprisonment 

Death penalty

  1. Life imprisonment is not so harsh because it also help prisoners to change themselves, it is not so cruel like death sentence. 

Death penalty is defined as the death sentence which is given to the prisoner for their crime.  

 2. Life imprisonment gives chance to prisoners to change themselves by providing them with schools and colleges in the school to explore themselves and they are also provided with health facilities, etc. and also help them to keep in touch with their families.

Death penalty is very cruel and harsh to prisoners it doesnt give any chance to proove themselves if they are given death sentence by the court. 

3. It gives chance to prisoners so they can realise their mistake and get to know what bad things are done. They get a chance to correct their mistake during life imprisonment. 

In death penalty the prisoner only get death sentence. In case if their family members or friends get a chance to prove them right then death sentence can be pardon.



Remission of Sentence in India

Power of remission is defined in the section 432 and 433 of Criminal Code of Procedure. Life imprisonment is subjected to Statutory Powers of Remission. If punishment is given with the executive process then remission can be premature release in a sentence of life imprisonment. Because of the Power of Remission Act punishment which is decided by the judiciary has the very serious. It can disturb the constitutional balance as well as separation of powers.     

Power of remission is important when we have to review the premature release. Under section 302 of Indian Penal Code prisoners can file a writ petition against Jail Authorities. If Jail Authorities for placing their case in front of  State Advisory Boards for shortening their life imprisonment. 

  • Life imprisonment without the possibility of release. 

Supreme court gives the decision of death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of release. Prisoners has to face lime imprisonment for life. They have no chance of release. They have to spend their whole life in the prison. 

Pardoning Power of the President

President of India is the head of the state. And the powers of the president is always termed as an extraordinary power which includes grant of pardon. The constitution of India also grants the power of pardon to the President of India. The power of pardon is mentioned in Article 72 of the Indian Constitution.  

Rules of pardon the death sentence:

  1. If punishment is given by the court martial the president has the power to pardon or commute the sentence of any person.
  2. The offences which is committed which is related to law or it belongs to the executive power of the union. 
  3. President can pardon death sentence.

Pardoning Power of the Governor

Meaning of discretionary power  

Discretionary means “freedom to act according to one’s judgment”. Governor has the power of discretion means he has the power or right to take decisions freely. He can exercise his power in his own individual judgement without the advice of the council of ministers.

Discretionary power is divided into two parts:   

  1. Specific Discretionary Powers:  in this Governor uses his specific powers to take the decisions of certain case. Certain responsibilities are provided to governor for the discretionary power. He is not bound to anyone. He doesn’t have to ask anyone for the decision. Powers can only be used in time of legal requirement. 
  2. Circumstantial Discretionary Power: many times the power of the Governor become circumstantial. Governor is not questionable in any manner if he doesn’t take decisions in the time of discretion. Governor decision is final in his discretion. 

Prison conditions in India 

In some major cities of the country that we visit, and probably we see some, unlucky faces who gets arrested and tortured, or worse, by the hands of the police. In many countries entirely there is lack of protections for civil liberties available in India. Though, some in linking in advance that we would find extensive police abuse of detainees. It is not yet discovered about the conditions of prisons and jails, to which detainees are sent after the police are done with them.

If incarceration is meant to punish, life inside the prisons will be worse. Though prisons are supposed to be leveling institutions in which the variables that affect the conditions of confinement are expected to be the criminal records of their inmates and their behavior in prison, other factors play a part in many countries. But India and Pakistan have retained colonial-era regulations that explicitly counter the concept of prison as a leveler.

The management of prisons falls exclusively under the domain of the State Government, as per the seventh schedule of the constitution. In every state, the prison administrative machinery works under the chief of prisons who is a senior ranking IPS officer. Indian prisons face three long-standing structural constraints, overcrowding, thanks to a high percentage of undertrials in the prison population, understaffing and underfunding. The inevitable outcome is subhuman living conditions, poor hygiene, and violent clashes between the inmates and jail authorities.

 Prison statistics India 2015 report

Prison Statistics India-2015 – National Crime Records Bureau

  • Overcrowded prisons, with an occupancy ratio of 14% more than the capacity in India.
  • More than two-thirds of the inmates are undertrials.
  • Chhattisgarh and Delhi are among the top two in the list of crime with an occupancy ratio is double than the capacity. 
  • Overcrowded –
  1. Meghalaya – 77.9%
  2. Uttar Pradesh – 68.8%
  3. Madhya Pradesh – 39.8%
  • In absolute numbers, UP had the highest number of undertrials (62,669), in comparison to Bihar (23,424) and Maharastra (21,667).
  • In Bihar, 82% of prisoners were undertrials, which is highest among the states.
  • Sixty-seven per cent of the people in Indian jails are undertrials falsely, they get falsely detained in prisons during trial, investigation or inquiry but not convicted of any crime in a court of law. 
  • The share of the prison population in trial or sentencing in India is extremely high in comparison to  international standards, 
  1. 11% in the UK
  2. 20% in the USA
  3. 29% in FRANCE.
  • More than 25% of undertrials in 16 out of 36 states and union territories have been detained for more than one year in 2014.
  • Jammu and Kashmir – 54% 
  • Goa – 50%
  • Gujrat – 42%
  • UP (18,214)

According to NCRB records:

  • 2.82 lakh inmates are undertrials, in which 55% are Muslims, Dalits, and Tribals.
  • Muslims, Dalits and Tribals communities form a population of 39% with a share of 14.2%, 16.6% and 8.6% of the population respectively, according to the 2011 census.
  • The Muslims community share of convicts is 15.8%, slightly above in the population, but their share among undertrials is 20.9% which is far higher
  •  The scheduled castes and scheduled tribes convicts have a population of 20.9% and 13.7% respectively, which is fairly higher.  

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