SC pulls up Centre for lack of facilities in jails

SC pulls up Centre for lack of facilities in jails

The Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up the Centre and states for lack of basic facilities in jails and observation homes, making inmates to suffer.

“The whole thing has become a joke. Do these people have no rights? Are they even seen as human beings. These are children. Are these children not citizens of our country? Please visit these jails and observation homes,” a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, appearing for the Union government.

The court was examining a matter suo motu titled as 'speedy trial of undertrial' arising out of a letter sent to Justices U U Lalit and A K Goel (since retired) after their visit to the Faridabad jail.

It said the undertrial prisoners comprised 62% of prison population in India compared to the world average of 18-20%. But the statistics were hard to explain and raises questions about the humaneness of our system, it said.

“Just go and have a look. Your officials do not know because they have never been to a jail or observation home. They do not step out. Taps are leaking no whitewash, clogged sewage toilets not working. The situation is very pathetic. That’s why two judges of the Supreme Court got very agitated when they saw exactly what is happening,” Justice Lokur told Lekhi.

On media reports showing some prisoners enjoying privileges in Tihar Jail here, the court asked, “Is there a parallel system running in jails? Do they have special rights? What have you done about Tihar Jail?”

The court was earlier told by amicus curiae Gaurav Agrawal that 240 jails across the country were housing inmates 150% above their normal capacity. The counsel had also pointed out about 77,000 sanctioned posts in the prisons department, 24,500 lie vacant.

On court's specific query for filling up of vacancies in the Central Forensic Science Laboratories and the possible reasons for the very large number of undertrials in jails, Lekhi on Thursday said some communications were sent to states and Union Territories, but only 19 of them have responded.

He said he would request the officers concerned to communicate with the states and Union Territories so that the rights of prisoners were recognised and given effect to and that their living conditions were improved. He also said he will find out whether video conferencing facilities and equipment can be made available to all Juvenile Justice Boards all over the country and the time limit for it.