Implementation not uniform

It has been over a year since S. Suresh Kumar, Joint Secretary to the Government of India, directed Home Secretaries of all States to ensure the release of eligible undertrial prisoners under Section 436 A of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr. PC). However, since the January 17, 2013 directive, it has been found that the implementation of the section has not been uniform across the State.

Documents available with The Hindu for the period January 17, 2013, to January 31, 2014, reveal that regular surveys were not conducted by the district-level review committee.

At the Hindalga Central Jail, authorities had identified undertrials eligible for release. However, the review committee meeting was not convened. This prompted the prison authorities to write to the State Home Ministry on January 6, 2014, asking it to convene such a meeting.

A senior official at the jail confirmed that no such meeting has been held. He said they were awaiting directions from the State regarding the recent apex court judgment, and would proceed accordingly. The documents reveal that no district conducted review committee meetings every three months as per the Union Home Ministry’s directive. Jail Superintendents have been directed to conduct frequent surveys of undertrial prisoners eligible under the section and submit a survey list to the respective District Legal Services Authorities. However, no such survey was conducted on a regular basis.

Mandya district seems to have bucked this trend and followed the advisory, although not to the letter. Two review meetings were held on January 30, 2014 and July 22, 2014, and two undertrials were released.

Not all authorities seem to be even aware of what this section really means. Authorities at the Raichur District Prison, in their response on January 18, 2014, said there were “no such undertrial prisoner detained under Section 436 A of the Cr.PC”.