State government asked to explain its stand on the issue

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday expressed itself against allowing accused to opt for prisons of their choice.

Justice N.K. Balakrishnan observed that if the accused was allowed such option, it would give room for suspicion and also misuse.

The court said the prisoners remanded in judicial custody should be housed in the jail near the police station where the case was registered and the investigation was on.

The court said, for example, if an offence was committed in Thrissur district, the accused should be lodged in the Central Prison, Thrissur, or the other jails in the district. If the accused was given the option of choosing a jail in Thiruvananthapuram, it would give rise for misuse. Besides, if one accused was involved in more than one criminal act, it would be advisable to detain such an accused in a jail where the crime was registered or the investigation was progressing.

The court made the observations while hearing a case suo motu initiated on the basis of a complaint that special treatment was being meted out to certain prisoners.

Apart from asking the State government to explain its stand on the issue, the judge also asked the government to file a detailed statement about the accused who were lodged in prisons other than the jail near the areas where the crime against them had been registered.

Alexander Jacob, Director-General of Prisons and Correctional Services, had earlier submitted that the government had taken steps to check the illegal actions of jail officials in according special treatment to certain prisoners. In an affidavit, he had said that medical board had been constituted to consider the merit of the claims of the prisoners regarding their health status made with a view to staying outside the prison. The prison officials would often place controversial/ doubtful cases before the medical board to safeguard the interest of justice.

He also pointed out that in a recent search in major jails, the officials had seized 120 mobile phones and chargers along with contraband articles. The government had later ordered a detailed probe by the Central investigation agencies to find out whether any prisoner had terror links. The middle-level officers in the prisons had been instructed to conduct surprise checks in jails frequently to recover contraband articles.

The affidavit also said that installation of surveillance system in the Central Prison, Thiruvananthapuram, was satisfactory in detecting untoward incidents inside the prison. The system had been introduced in the jails in Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thrissur. The department proposed to extend the system to other jails.

It pleaded that a directive be given to the courts to make better use of the video conferencing system for conducting trial and remand extension.

Mobile jammers in the Central Prison, Kannur, were not functioning up to the mark due to technical reasons such as increase in the frequency level by mobile companies on complaints of neighbours. The department was on the lookout for a sophisticated version of mobile jammers . The affidavit said the Prison Department proposed to extend the video conference system for production of remand and under trial prisoners to other districts.

The affidavit had added that the Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau had neither reported nor registered any case of corruption against prison officials in the last several years. The DGP also made suggestions for reforming jails, which included formation of a squad headed by an officer in the rank of Superintendent, Central Prisons, to conduct surprise checks, installation of body scanners to prevent illegal trafficking of contraband articles, equipping hospitals attached to the Central Prisons with modern facilities, and strengthening of staff in jails.

  • Central Prison surveillance satisfactory: affidavit

  • Cell phones, contraband items seized from jails