'1,400 inmates can be freed from jail'

'1,400 inmates can be freed from jail'

Both police, trial court responsible for violating SC direction: Govt tells HC

The AAP government has told the Delhi High Court that over 1,400 undertrial prisoners can be released from jails of the national capital if the Supreme Court’s order that arrests can be made only if they are required is followed.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath was also told that the trial court and police were violating the Supreme Court direction, which attracts contempt of court proceedings against the authorities concerned.

“If the Supreme Court order is followed that police should not arrest persons unless they are required and courts should not authorise detentions in a mechanical manner, at least 1,460 undertrial prisoners will get the benefit, who can walk out of the jail immediately,” the Delhi government’s senior standing counsel Rahul Mehra said.

A total of 1,460 undertrial male prisoners are lodged in jails of Delhi for offences which are punishable with less than seven years of jail term, he added, while referring to the status report filed by the Delhi government.

He further said that both the police and trial courts are responsible for putting these prisoners behind bars, so in violation of the Supreme Court direction they are liable to face contempt proceedings.

Mehra further urged the court that some direction can be passed under Section 227 (If, upon consideration of the record of the case and the documents submitted therewith, and after hearing the submissions of the accused and the prosecution in this behalf, the judge considers that there is not sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused, he shall discharge the accused and record his reasons for so doing) of the Criminal Penal Code (CrPC).

The Delhi government’s submission came in the backdrop of court’s query which was sought during hearing of the issues related to overcrowding in jails and prolonged detention of male and female undertrial prisoners in Delhi.

Meanwhile, Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) said that the police officials are found to be violating the Supreme Court’s direction.

DSLSA also said the court can issue directions to all the district judges here to hold consultations with other judges to look into the release of undertrial prisoners.

The bench then asked the Delhi government to give a status report related to number of public prosecutors engaged in all trial courts and infrastructure provided to them.

The report was sought after the court was told that many undertrials are behind bars because the hearings on their bail pleas could not be completed due to lack of prosecutors.

Earlier, in pursuance to December 7 last year order, the Tihar jail Superintendent of Jail number 6 in his status report had said that out of 105 undertrial prisoners, 51 were released.

“Though 3 more UTPs have been granted bail, sureties are yet to be furnished for them. So far as the 47 women UTPs who have completed half of the period of sentence in lesser offence in case of multiple offences are concerned, it is stated that 22 were released as on December 10, 2015,” the report said.

Tihar had filed its report after the court’s direction came during a hearing when the bench took suo motu cognizance of Supreme Court directions which had said that high courts could direct respective state governments, under whose jurisdiction the jails fell, to take care of prisoners’ complaints about lack of infrastructure facilities, food, hygiene and health care among other things.

The apex court had on November 13, 2014, said that the prisons were for convicts and not the undertrials.