NHRC seeks report on women prisoners' children

NHRC seeks report on women prisoners' children

The NHRC has now issued notices to all states seeking reports on the number of such children and facilities for them in their jails and submit it in six weeks.

Amid reports of around 50 children languishing in jail with their mothers without any facilities in Odisha prisons, the worried National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has initiated an exercise to identify such cases across the country where Supreme Court guidelines are violated.

The NHRC has now issues notices to all states seeking reports on the number of such children and facilities for them in their jails and submit it in six weeks.

In its report, the states will have to provide details about children being kept with their mothers in the jails under their jurisdiction without ensuring facilities, necessary for psychological and physical growth as well as educational upbringing.

The action came after it took suo-motu cognizance of news reports about the plight of 46 boys and girls, aged between one month and six years, who are living in Odisha prisons with their mothers, including nine convicted and 36 undertrial prisoners.

The NHRC said these children are entitled to food, shelter, medical care, clothing, education and recreational facilities but nothing is being provided to them despite the Supreme Court guidelines as per the report.

The NHRC felt that if such a situation prevailed in Odisha prisons, then it amounted to human rights violations of the children. "The guidelines set by the Supreme Court are very clear providing proper protection to such children but as reported, it appears, the ground reality is different. The instant news report is focused on the prisons in the State of Odisha. However, there could be similar cases in the jails of other states too, which have not yet been noticed," the NHRC said.

Quoting the media report, the NHRC said these children in Odisha include 25 girls and 21 boys belonging to nine convicted and 36 undertrial women prisoners. Out of the 45 prisoner mothers, 30 belong to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities.

As per the Supreme Court guidelines, the cases of women prisoners with children should be disposed of expeditious. However, the NHRC said the "reality is different" and there are many inmates who have been granted bail by the courts but they cannot be freed as they are unable to furnish the sureties.

The guidelines set by the Apex Court also ensure that the children below three years shall be allowed in creche and those between two to three years, should be looked after in a nursery, run by the prisons authorities, outside the prison premises and those small children should not be kept in sub-jails, unless facilities are ensured for their biological, psychological and social growth.

The NHRC also cited a particular case of a couple in the report, who was taken into judicial custody in May 2008. Three months after her arrest, the wife delivered a baby girl in the jail and the mother and her newborn baby were kept under solitary conferment and no proper diet and massage oil for the baby were provided by the jail authorities till she went on strike.

"They lived in four jails and their experience in raising a child in prison was reportedly painful. After spending about nine years in jails, the couple was finally acquitted by the Court in all cases last year," the NHRC said.