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No attempts shall be made to reduce area of open air prisons: Supreme Court

Semi-open or open prisons allow convicts to work outside the premises during the day to earn a livelihood and return in the evening. The concept was introduced to assimilate the convicts with society and reduce psychological pressure as they face.
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 14:42 IST
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 14:42 IST

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court has directed that there shall be no attempts to reduce the area of open air prisons functioning in the country.

Semi-open or open prisons allow convicts to work outside the premises during the day to earn a livelihood and return in the evening. The concept was introduced to assimilate the convicts with society and reduce psychological pressure as they faced difficulties in leading normal lives outside.

A bench of Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta noted advocate K Parameshwar, assisting it as an amicus curiae in a matter related to jails and prisoners, submitted that a model draft manual has been prepared by the Centre wherein the nomenclature 'open correctional institutions' was used for open air camps/institutions/prisons.

"We further direct the (Union) Ministry of Home Affairs to present a status report on recent developments in respect of the open correctional institutions after coming of the Model Prison Manual, 2016, and the Model Prisons and Correctional Services Act, 2023," the bench said in its order passed on May 17.

The bench noted it has been informed that there is a proposal to reduce the area at Sanganer open air camp in Jaipur.

"We thus direct that there shall be no attempt of reduction in area of open air camps/institutions/prisons, wherever they are functioning," the bench said.

"The data put on record, wherein such open correctional institutions are shown to be functioning in different names, would further show that the said institutions are not being utilised to their optimum capacity," it said.

It noted the amicus curiae submitted that strengthening of the open correctional institutions, apart from addressing the issue of overcrowding of jails, will also help in the rehabilitation of prisoners and do away with caste discrimination faced by them.

The top court directed Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala and West Bengal, where such facilities are functioning most robustly, to share their best practices, applicable rules, guidelines and experience on setting up, expansion and management of open correctional institutions with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

"The registry shall communicate this order to the chief secretary of the states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala and West Bengal for compliance," it said.

Taking into consideration the importance of the matter, the bench asked the amicus curiae and the counsel appearing for NALSA to jointly prepare and circulate a questionnaire to obtain information from all the states in respect of the status and functioning of open correctional institutions.

It noted that insofar as the modalities for visitation by lawyers in jail is concerned, NALSA's counsel stated she has modified the format of letter to be filled by the visiting advocate.

"The same is taken on record and approved," the bench said and posted the matter for further hearing in the second week of July.

While hearing the matter on May 9, the apex court had observed that establishing open jails can be one of the solutions to overcrowding and also address the issue of rehabilitation of prisoners.

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Published 20 May 2024, 14:42 IST

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