IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 406 OF 2013
Re-Inhuman conditions in 1382 Prisons
State of Assam
Date of Judgement
25 September, 2018
Hon’ble Justice Madan B. Lokur.; Abdul Nazeer J.; Deepak Gupta, J.
The case concerns itself with the right of prisoners and is aimed at instituting a Supreme Court Committee which will deal with the varied reforms that are required to improve the conditions of prisoners.
Facts of the case:
The present case is concerned with the rights of prisoners which were taken by the Supreme Court by suo moto cognizance. A letter from the former Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti of India supported by the then learned Attorney General was initiated which reflected the need for introspection and reform in this regard. The issues concerned with were related to mainly four problems of overcrowding in prisons; unnatural deaths of prisoners; gross inadequacy of staff; and the available staff being untrained or inadequately trained.
The petition remained pending without any finality of the decision, meanwhile, the problems kept inflating.
The judgment focused upon the impact of public interest litigation and very rarely has it been initiated by the suo moto jurisdiction of the court. There is criticism faced by the Courts in this respect by the advocates of mantras of ‘judicial activism’ or ‘separation of powers’. However, PIL is such a tool that provides a voice to the marginalized. It is not denied that the Court has in several instances exceeded its jurisdiction with reference to a PIL, but the same has been in the interests of the people and hence its significance cannot be rejected.
The Court listed down the earlier efforts made in the past on the issue of the rights of prisoners. The Mulla Committee of 1980 on Jail Reforms, Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer Committee on Women Prisoners of 1987, 78th Report of the Law Commission of India on congestion of under-trial prisoners in jail, 2007, Report of The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) and the National Policy on Prison Reforms and Correctional Administration are some of the initiatives taken up by the Government. There have been various private and individual efforts as well.
Considering the necessity of reforms in prison administration and prison management despite earlier efforts, The Ministry of Home Affairs was directed to constitute a Supreme Court Committee on Prison Reforms which was to provide recommendations on issues pertaining to reviewing the implementation of Guidelines contained in the Model Prison Manual 2016 by States and Union Territories (UT’s), of the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women, of training manuals for prison personnel prepared by BPR&D, of recommendations on Women in Prisons, of Guidelines contained in ‘Living conditions in Institutions for Children in Conflict with Law’ and Model Rules and Procedures under the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and the corresponding Rules of 2016.
It is also to examine the extent of overcrowding in prisons and correctional homes, to examine the functioning of Under Trial Review Committees, to check the availability of legal aid and advice, the grant of remission, parole and furlough, to examine violence and adopt measures to prevent unnatural deaths, assess the availability of medical facilities in prisons, to assess the availability of staff, suggest methods for training and educating the staff, assess the feasibility of establishing Open Prisons, recommend steps for the psycho-social well-being of minor children of women prisoners, and to provide remedial measures for all the above issues along with any other recommendations as it deems fit in furtherance of reforms in prisons in correctional homes. Certain other directions were issued by the Bench with respect to the functioning of the committee.
Edited by Parul Soni
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje