LASS net Webinar Series - 13 October 2022 - Guest Lecture : Incarcerating the Innocent :A History of Undertrial Prisoners in Colonial India

On behalf of LASSnet anchored at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, in collaboration with the Centre for Law and Humanities, O.P. Jindal Global University and the Centre for Asian Legal Studies (CALS) SOAS, we are pleased to invite you for an online talk by Dr Alastair McClure on 13 October 2022 at 5 pm IST.

Paper Title

Incarcerating the Innocent: A History of Under-Trial Prisoners in Colonial India


Alastair McClure 
Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Hong Kong

Chair & Discussant 

Mayur Suresh
School of Law, SOAS

Date: 13 October at 5 pm IST

Time: 5 pm IST


Stitching together the social life of what came before the courtroom, this paper seeks to bring the experience of pre-trial detention within histories of the criminal trial in colonial India. With the accused regularly spending weeks in lockups, barracks, tents, and prisons awaiting trial, on one level detention presented a series of practical obstacles when it came to organising a proper legal defence. At the same time, this experience brought with it a host of more basic problems, with regular complaints about the derisory provision of food, ill-treatment at the hands of the police, the exposure to the heat and the cold, and difficulty in accessing family and friends. Placing a tremendous physical and emotional burden on the accused, these problems continued when their trial was to begin. Marched through towns tied to a rope, locked in overnight train compartments, or escorted in police vans, the journey to court itself could become humiliating public spectacles. On arrival in the courtroom, whether it be a lack of access to personal clothes, the position of guards around the docks, or the use of handcuffs, the politics of how the accused was presented was then to shape how they were perceived by the jury and the judge. As will be shown, in these circumstances it was not uncommon for those making a case for their innocence to have to do so dressed in prison clothes and shackled to the dock, as they battled hunger and fatigue.

No comments: