On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court asked the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) and the Delhi government to respond to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition seeking orders to provide copies of first information reports (FIRs), chargesheets, court orders, and other evidence recorded before the trial court to undertrial prisoners (UTPs) who are unable to obtain them (Alok Tripathi vs. State).
Advocate Alok Tripathi argued that a substantial number of UTPs lacked documentation such as FIRs, chargesheets, and orders in their own cases as a result of COVID-19 and the limited functioning of trial courts.
Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh of the Division Bench issued notice to the DSLSA and the Delhi government in the dispute, and the case was adjourned till November 29.
Tripathi, who is also a panel lawyer for the Delhi High Court Legal Service Committee and the jail visiting advocate at central jail No. 7 in Delhi’s Tihar jail, argued that such inmates are in a precarious situation because their trials have not progressed and they have not been able to exercise their right to file bail applications with the courts.
It was argued that this was a major breach of their basic right to seek legal remedies.
UTPs had also made several petitions for certified copies of documents, according to Tripathi, but to no avail.
Tripathi also noted that on January 7, 2019, the DSLSA issued a circular prohibiting the UTP’s private counsel from acquiring documents through the DLSA’s legal aid channel, which was re-circulated on September 20,2021.
It was also argued that for the limited purpose of collecting documents, there should be no differentiation between UTPs with legal assistance counsel and UTPs with non-functioning private counsel.
Following that, the current plea was filed, asking for a directive to enable a framework for UTPs to have quick access to FIRs, chargesheets, and evidence. The petition also requested that the document be made available on the website for easy and fast access.
On November 29, the case will be heard again.