Sunil Mittal’s Nyaya Bharti initiative lends a helping hand to undertrials

With undertrials making up more than 65% of the prison population in India, delayed justice has become the norm


Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Mittal. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Mittal. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: Justice delayed is as good as justice denied, and with undertrials making up more than 65% of the prison population in India (howindialives.com), delayed justice has become the norm.

In an attempt to address this issue, Bharti Enterprises founder and chairman Sunil Mittal announced in November 2015 that he will take a Rs5 crore cut in his annual compensation to help start a new corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, Nyaya Bharti.

In a November 2015 conversation with Mint, Mittal said that he had been inspired to set up Nyaya Bharti based on experience gleaned from court visits. It was in the course of these visits that he learnt that there are thousands of undertrials in need of help, and while corporates are doing a lot for education, sanitation and environment, no one has looked at this area.

This initiative caught our eye for its out-of-the-box approach to CSR.

CSR Rules 2014 direct that companies with a net worth of Rs500 crore or revenue of Rs1,000 crore or net profit of Rs5 crore spend 2% of their average profit in the past three years on social development-related activities.

Started with Rs10 crore, where half the funds came from the Bharti Airtel’s CSR budget and half from Mittal’s compensation, the initiative intended to provide legal and financial aid to underprivileged undertrials who are first-time offenders, accused of petty offences such as pick-pocketing.

It also helps post bail or pay the fine imposed by a court, even if they have been convicted.

Bharti Airtel spent more than Rs53 crore on its various CSR activities in FY16, including this initiative.

Nyaya Bharti has a governing board headed by retired chief justice of India A.S. Anand.

The programme, started in April 2016, is initially limited to the National Capital Region (NCR) centred around Delhi, and Punjab. In the coming years, it is to be extended to other geographies.

As of 31 August, Nyaya Bharti had facilitated the release of 24 undertrials on bail from prisons in NCR.

With over 280,000 undertrials lodged in some 1,400 jails across the country, this is a small but welcome step.

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