SC says jails are overcrowded by 150 %, laments plight of inmates

“Fundamental rights and human rights of people, however they may be placed, cannot be ignored only because of their adverse circumstances”

Updated - December 01, 2016 05:42 pm IST

Published - October 14, 2016 12:02 am IST - NEW DELHI

: Blaming Delhi for paying “little or no attention” to the fundamental rights of under trials and convicts, the Supreme Court said it is “not only tragic but also pathetic” to find that prisons in the national capital, along with half a dozen States across the country, are overcrowded by over 150 per cent.

A Bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur, in a judgment on a suo motu Public Interest Litigation (PIL), observed that prisons are crammed with inmates by over one and a half times the permissible limit.

“Fundamental rights and human rights of people, however they may be placed, cannot be ignored only because of their adverse circumstances,” the judgment observed.

Action not taken

The recent judgment refers to jails in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in this context, while observing that it was “unfortunate that in spite of directions by the Court, the prison authorities have not been able to take any effective steps for reducing overcrowding in jails”.

The court found that authorities have defied repeated orders of the Supreme Court — the latest ones being on February 7 and May 5 of this year — to draw a “viable” plan of action to de-congest jails. Instead, prison authorities have banked on ad hoc proposals like the construction of additional barracks or jails, and these proposals have no time limits for implementation.

Besides, the Court also found that the Ministry of Women and Child Development is yet to frame a Manual for Juveniles in Custody under the recently amended Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.


The Supreme Court directed the Ministry to get the manual ready by November 30 and present it in court. It also ordered the Ministry of Home Affairs to receive and collate plans of action for de-congesting jails from the various States and Union Territories in the next six months. Moreover, the SC directed the government to prepare a viable Plan of Action within the next six months and hand it over to the apex court by March 31, 2017.

“We are a little distressed to note that even though this Court has held on several occasions that prisoners, both undertrials and convicts, have certain fundamental rights and human rights, little or no attention is being paid in this regard by the States and some Union Territories, including the National Capital Territory of Delhi,” the judgment observed.

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