NEW DELHI: Expressing concern over the surging numbers of those incarcerated in prisons across the country, the Supreme court on Saturday said overcrowding of jails has gone up even after a slew of directions to check it.
The apex court also said there was no noticeable change in the condition of prisoners and observed that prisoners deserve to be treated with dignity.
“It is clear that in spite of several orders passed by this Court from time to time in various petitions, for one reason or another, the issue of overcrowding in jails continues to persist …,” a bench of Justices M B Lokur and R K Agrawal said.
“Has anything changed on the ground? The prison statistics available as on December 31, 2014 from the website of NCRB indicate that as far as overcrowding is concerned, there is no perceptible change and in fact the problem of overcrowding has perhaps been accentuated with the passage of time,” the apex court said.
The court, which passed a slew of directions aimed at prison reforms, said despite various directions and assurances by the government, there has been no significant change in the condition inside jails.
“The sum and substance … is that prisoners, like all human beings, deserve to be treated with dignity,” it said.
The social justice bench also noted that maximum overcrowding was in the jail of Dadra and Nagar Haveli (331.7 per cent), followed by Chhattisgarh (258.9 per cent) and Delhi (221.6 per cent).
The court issued notice to the Ministry of Women and Child Development and directed it to prepare a prison manual after taking into consideration the condition of juveniles who are in Observation Homes.
“Prison reforms have been the subject matter of discussion and decisions rendered by this Court from time to time over the last 35 years. Unfortunately, even though Article 21 of the Constitution requires a life of dignity for all persons, little appears to have changed on the ground as far as prisoners are concerned and we are once again required to deal with issues relating to prisons in the country and their reform,” the bench said.
On June 13, 2013 former Chief Justice of India R C Lahoti, had written a letter to Chief Justice of India relating to the inhuman conditions in 1382 prisons in India which was reported in a newspaper. Subsequently, a PIL was registered and notices issued to the government.