TAMIL NADU

Chennai Central Prison officials in a fix

CHENNAI, JAN. 20. Delay in producing prisoners in courts for remand extension has put the Chennai Central Prison officials in a spot, though the blame lies with the armed reserve/district police personnel who fail to reach the prison on time to escort the prisoners.

Several magistrates have already written direct letters to the prison authorities here, taking exception to the inordinate delay in producing undertrials and remand prisoners in their courts. The delay triggers a chain reaction, affecting the policemen investigating the case, the witnesses waiting to depose, the court officials concerned and the prisoners themselves.

Everyday, around 500 of the 1,778 (as on January 16) inmates of the prison require to be produced in different courts in Chennai and mofussil areas including Tiruchi, Madurai, Coimbatore and Tirunelveli.

``Since the day begins quite early in jails, we can keep prisoners ready for production in court, even at 6 a.m.'', a prison official said, adding that the armed reserve personnel's main excuse was the non-availability of vehicles and men. Most of the times, despite specific intimation detailing the time and place for production, the armed reserve personnel or the mofussil police reach jail premises only at the fag-end of working hours.

``But, since the courts take cognizance of only the pick-up time (at jail), we are blamed for the consequent late production. We keep getting named letters from presiding officers for no fault of us'', another official lamented.

He also pointed out that though escort duty was the AR's primary responsibility, the force was usually diverted and deployed for bandobust duty.

While security on the premises is the responsibility of jail authorities, the `outer region' which includes the main entrance is guarded by the Tamil Nadu Special Police personnel.

Escorting undertrials and remand prisoners to courts is the exclusive job of the armed reserve police personnel. Only concerted efforts involving all three wings, if possible at the highest level, can ease the prevailing situation, which is far from convincing.

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