Often, police handcuff one accused with another or fetter them to their own arm
Many in the police force in the State were apparently unaware that ‘handcuffing of an accused without necessary magistrate permission is illegal' until the Madurai High Court Bench centre-staged the issue in March.
The court ordered two police constables to pay a compensation of Rs.5,000 each for handcuffing a detainee without getting permission from the judicial magistrate concerned.
Despite the Supreme Court order against the handcuffing of prisoners without judicial consent and the subsequent High Court directions to police and judicial authorities to scrupulously abide by the order, illegal handcuffing of undertrials is widely prevalent in trial courts across the State.
The Judges of the Madurai Bench, expressing concern over the continued practice, said it was painful to note the non-observance of the apex court directives by the police. They wanted Judicial Magistrates to maintain a vigilant watch over this human rights violation and appropriate action initiated in accordance with the law.
It is a common practice for prisoners to be brought handcuffed to trial courts such as the ones at Egmore or Saidapet.
M.S. Mohammed Abdullah (28) of Kannadasan Nagar was lodged as a remand prisoner in the Central Prison. On coming out on bail recently, he said that after the police took him and his associates to the Mettupalayam court they were handcuffed and bound by chains to a police van all through the night.
“It is very painful when relatives and children in our family see us in handcuffs on court premises,” he said.
Another prisoner who sought anonymity recounted his experience when he was arrested and put in jail in connection with a kidnapping case. He was taken in handcuffs from the Central Prison to the trail court at Uthiramerur.
“Even when we entered the court hall, I was produced in handcuffs before the magistrate. It is only when I lodged a protest that the magistrate warned the police personnel accompanying me. However, once we emerged from the court hall I was handcuffed again and escorted back to prison,” he complained.
P.Pugalenthi, a lawyer and co-ordinator of the Prisoners Rights Forum, says the practice of police escort teams bringing remand prisoners handcuffed to trial courts is a clear human rights violation and contravenes the orders of the Supreme Court and High Court.
“Though the police can handcuff the prisoner after getting permission from the magistrate concerned, they seldom follow this procedure,” he said.
“Often, the police handcuff one accused with another or fetter them to their own arm. In some cases, they remove the cuffs before entering the court hall or make the prisoners hide the handcuffs behind their back to escape the attention of the presiding magistrate”, he said.
V. Suresh, national secretary of People's Union for Civil Liberties concurs that “there is no blanket permission for handcuffing the accused.”
Each time, the police have to get permission from the judicial magistrate before handcuffing a trial prisoner being brought to court.
“Even though there is a clear ruling by the Supreme Court, it is quite widely and wilfully violated,” he said.
However, P. Kannappan, Inspector General of Police, said after the recent direction of the High Court to the police to follow the Supreme Court's directions on handcuffing of prisoners, escort police were been given appropriate instructions.
“The escort team members in the Armed Reserve Police as well as the local police are individually briefed about the order.”