SC lists rad­i­cal prison re­forms, in­mates may get more fa­cil­i­ties

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Front Page - Bhadra Sinha bhadra.sinha@hin­dus­tan­times.com

RE­LIEF IN OR­DER Court asks for ‘cir­cum­spec­tion’ in ar­rests, states told to pay com­pen­sa­tion

The Supreme Court on Fri­day or­dered rad­i­cal prison re­forms, in­clud­ing a di­rec­tion to states to pro­vide tele­phone and video con­fer­enc­ing fa­cil­i­ties for pris­on­ers to en­able them to speak with their lawyers and fam­ily mem­bers.

The or­der, is­sued in the wake of un­nat­u­ral deaths of pris­on­ers be­ing re­ported from across the coun­try, di­rects states to award com­pen­sa­tion to fam­i­lies of 551 pris­on­ers who died un­der mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances in­side jail be­tween 2012 and 2015.

Ask­ing the Cen­tre and states to dis­play “cir­cum­spec­tion” while ar­rest­ing cit­i­zens, a bench headed by Jus­tice MB Lokur said the au­thor­i­ties can­not treat pris­on­ers as chat­tel and in­car­cer­ate them with­out pro­vid­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

“No state gov­ern­ment can shirk its du­ties of pro­vid­ing bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties to pris­on­ers.

“If a state gov­ern­ment is un­able to do so, it should be far more cir­cum­spect in ar­rest­ing peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly un­der­tri­als, who con­sti­tute the vast ma­jor­ity of those in ju­di­cial cus­tody,” the bench said and fixed De­cem­ber 31 as the dead­line for com­pli­ance of its di­rec­tives.

The SC be­gan hear­ing the mat­ter re­lated to in­hu­man con­di­tions in jails af­ter it re­ceived a let­ter in 2016 writ­ten by for­mer Chief Jus­tice of In­dia RC La­hoti.

It drew the top court’s no­tice to the in­creas­ing num­ber of sui­ci­dal deaths in pris­ons.

The top court said states do not have to op­pose ev­ery bail ap­pli­ca­tion nor ask for re­mand of ev­ery sus­pect pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It di­rected Chief Jus­tices of high courts to take cog­nizance of “un­nat­u­ral deaths” as re­vealed in the NCRB data, iden­tify the next of kin of the vic­tims and ini­ti­ate a hear­ing in pub­lic in­ter­est to grant suit­able com­pen­sa­tion un­less al­ready awarded.

States have been asked to ap­point ser­vices of coun­sel­lors and sup­port per­sons for coun­selling pris­on­ers, par­tic­u­larly first-time of­fend­ers.

The meet­ing time of in­mates with their fam­ily mem­bers must be ex­tended, the court or­dered. State Le­gal Ser­vices Au­thor­i­ties have been asked to con­duct a study in re­spect of over­all con­di­tions in pris­ons and a per­for­mance au­dit.

Avail­abil­ity of med­i­cal as­sis­tance to pris­on­ers should also be stud­ied.

HT FILE

There are thou­sands of un­der­tri­als in In­dia, many of whom have been in prison for years since they can­not af­ford lawyers, and end up dy­ing in mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances in­side the premises.

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