62 babies born in four years in West Bengal, most women prisoners were already expecting, SC told

The apex court had last week taken cognisance of the allegation about several women prisoners in West Bengal getting pregnant while in custody.
Last Updated : 14 February 2024, 11:59 IST
Last Updated : 14 February 2024, 11:59 IST

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New Delhi: Sixty-two babies were born in West Bengal jails over the last four years and most of the women inmates who gave birth to them were expecting when brought to prison, the Supreme Court has been informed.

The apex court had last week taken cognisance of the allegation about several women prisoners in West Bengal getting pregnant while in custody.

Senior advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in a matter titled 'Inhuman conditions in 1,382 prisons', told the court he has received information from Additional Director General and Inspector General, Correctional Services, West Bengal, regarding children born to women prisoners while in custody.

"The undersigned has received information from ADG & IG correctional services, West Bengal on February 10, 2024 at 5:32 pm for last 4 years of all child births in the jails in West Bengal, which indicates that there were 62 children born in the jails in West Bengal during the last 4 years," Agrawal said.

"It appears that most of the women prisoners were already expecting at the time when they were brought to the jails. In some cases, the women prisoners had gone out on parole and returned back expecting," he said in an application for direction filed in the court.

Agrawal filed the application in a matter relating to alleged inhuman conditions prevailing in jails and sought the apex court's directions in light of reports which suggested quite a few women prisoners in West Bengal got pregnant while in custody.

He said in order to understand the security measures in jails or barracks for women, he held discussions with jail authorities of Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi.

The application said it appeared from the conversations that in some places, including Delhi's Tihar jail, there are separate jails for women.

It said these jails have only women officials and no male staff are allowed to go inside.

"In rare cases when there is requirement of male doctor or visits by male officials, a women guard is always accompanying the person," the application said, adding in other places, there are women's barracks in jail complexes where also the same protocol is followed.

"There is a need for complete security audit of the women jails and women barracks in the country. Further, there is also a requirement of examining the medical facility in women jails to ensure that proper examinations of women are held at the time of admission and at regular intervals," the amicus curiae said.

He said the apex court had in its order on January 30 already directed constitution of a committee to examine some aspects regarding overcrowding in jails.

He suggested that in relation to women jails, the court may consider having a different committee.

In his application, Agrawal has said the most senior lady judicial officer in a district may be requested to assess the existing security apparatus in jails and barracks for women. She should be accompanied by the senior-most lady police officer in the district and superintendent of the jail or barrack concerned.

He said they may also ascertain the availability women personnel for the security and welfare of female prisoners. The women prisoners, he said, should be medically examined at the time of admission and periodically thereafter.

"In jails, where there are children, it may perhaps be advisable that a lady member of the Child Welfare committee of the district may also be associated to examine the availability of creche, schooling and other facilities of children who are lodged with their mothers…," the application said.

The apex court had on February 9 taken cognisance of the allegations about women inmates getting pregnant in West Bengal prisons, and asked Agrawal to look into it and submit a report.

The Calcutta High Court had on February 8 ordered the transfer of a related matter to a criminal division bench after the amicus curiae there claimed some women prisoners lodged in West Bengal's correctional homes had got pregnant while in jail and 196 babies were born.

Lawyer Tapas Kumar Bhanja, who was appointed as an amicus curiae by the high court in a 2018 suo motu motion on overcrowding in prisons, had submitted a note on related issues and his suggestions before a division bench presided over by Chief Justice T S Sivagnanam.

Bhanja had suggested barring the male employees of correctional homes from entering into enclosures meant for women prisoners.

Published 14 February 2024, 11:59 IST

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