HC censures delay in speedy trial due to lack of escort

Srinagar: Censuring non-production of detainees and undertrials before courts due to lack of escort, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed Superintendent of Jail Kishtwar to file a detailed reply to the report filed by Kashmir High Court Bar Association (KHCBA) highlighting host of problems facing the inmates.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by the KHCBA, a division bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Hasnain Massodi rejected the reply to the application by the Superintendent Jail Kishtwar, terming it “far from satisfactory.”
“Instead of meeting the disclosures made in the (KHCBA) report, it has made general observation that on account of law and order problem undertrials could not be taken to Session Court Bhaderwah and Additional Session Judge Doda. The general remarks made in the Para 5 of the reply are not acceptable in the face of the fact that the report submitted by the Bar Association in paragraph after paragraph have disclosed specific cases where the trial has been hampered on account of the non-production of the prisoners before the court,” the bench said, observing that the situation has resulted from non-availability of escort vehicle.
“Accordingly, every single case needs to be obliged, and if the respondent finds that there is room for amending their role, then it should be accorded due priority as right of speedy trial is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution, and delay of such nature would be negation of such right,” the bench said.
The direction by the court followed submissions by KHCBA president Advocate M A Qayoom that a number of undertrials have not been taken to the trial court on account of various reasons, particularly non-availability of escort vehicle.
He referred to a number of cases highlighted in the KHCBA’s report filed before the court on November 26 last year.
Referring to case of one Tariq Mattoo of Gandoh, Mian Qayoom said that he told the visiting KHCBA team that evidence in his case was closed in 2010 but till date the judge has not announced the judgment.
“One of the possible reasons could be that he is not produced before the court,” the division bench replied to Qayoom’s submissions.
In another direction, the bench reiterated its direction to Principal Session Judge Kishtwar to visit the district jail and submit the report every two months to the High Court.
The court also directed Health and Medical Education Department to file compliance report about filing up 31 vacancies in various jails. Among the vacancies include 10 Assistant Surgeons, a Dental Surgeon, three B-Grade Specialists besides X-ray and dental technicians.
The bench also directed government to file compliance report regarding procuring of 10 ambulances and their allocation for jail inmates.
In its last compliance report to the court’s July 30, 2013 order, the government had informed it that the ambulance were to be procured during Financial Year 2013-14.
In Para 2 of the report, reference has been made to a government order (363 of 2013 dated 27-8-2013) for sanctioning the amount Rs 20.70 lakhs for purchase of the ambulances.
However, in compliance report filed on September 5, 2013, no up to date status has been made as to whether vehicles have been purchased and allocated to various district jails.
Another issue, the bench said, pertains to government order of 1968 with regard to supplies of diet and toiletries.
The order, bench said, is stated to have been amended in 2001 and stated that same facilities would be given to detainees which are given to undertrials.
However, the bench said, the jail manual does not furnish any details of facilities to be provided to the undertrials.
“Therefore it needs to be clarified what exactly is the minimum facilities given to undertrials. It shall be mentioned what are the rate given to detainees/undertrials in other parts of the country so that the court may be assisted in comparing the rates prevailing in the state of J&K and other states,” the bench said.
Mian Qayoom represented the KHCBA while Additional Advocate General R A Khan defended state in the case.