Give social service duties to those sentenced to 6 months or 1 year: SC

SC suggestion comes after amicus reveals that jails are overflowing

March 27, 2018 11:06 pm | Updated March 28, 2018 04:39 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Criminals sentenced to imprisonment for six months or a year should be allocated social service duties rather than be put in already overflowing prisons, the Supreme Court advised the government on Tuesday.

The suggestion came from Justice Deepak Gupta, who is part of a Bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur, after the court’s amicus curiae Gaurav Agrawal submitted that 240 jails across the country are housing inmates 150% above their normal capacity.

Worse is the prison staff-prisoner ratio. Of about 77,000 sanctioned posts, 24500 lie vacant. Mr. Agrawal said Tamil Nadu and U.P. are some of the worst cases in prison staff-inmate ratio. Only about 5,000 prison staff monitor over 92,000 inmates in Uttar Pradesh. Tamil Nadu has about 4,000 prison staffers to monitor 13,000 prisoners.

Mr. Agrawal said there are 18 jails exclusively for women. Plus there are separate areas for women in other jails, but there is complete disproportionality as far as space for women inmates are concerned. He said these jails were not modelled to house women inmates, especially those with minor children staying with them.

The court also observed about the plight of undertrial prisoners who languish behind bars.

“Sixty percent of those arrested need not be actually arrested. The police say there is no need for arrest, but they still do. Again, half of those arrested, need not be remanded, but they are still remanded,” Justice Lokur pointed out.

The top court is hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country.

On September 15 last year, a Supreme Court judgment had encouraged the need for open prisons. It had urged for steps like the appointment of counsellors and support persons for prisoners, particularly first-time offenders.

The apex court had suggested steps like more family visits for prisoners and use of phones and video-conferencing not only between a prisoner and family, but also his lawyers.

It had directed the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs) to conduct a study and performance audit of prisons. It wanted the government to constitute a Board of Visitors to initiate prison reforms.

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