Srinagar: Prisoners in various jails of Jammu are “depressed and feel frustrated” due to lack of adequate legal aid and basic facilities, the Kashmir High Court Bar Association said in its report after visiting these jails. The report was released here on Saturday.
In the report, compiled after a visit by an eight member team to Central Jail Kotbalwal and district jails of Ambphalla, Udhampur, Kathua and Hira Nagar, the lawyers’ body said those booked under the NIA Act may face decades in gaol before their trial is completed given the huge number of witnesses, many of whom are ‘protected’ and the names not even disclosed to the prisoners. The team visited the jails on 27 and 28 January in pursuance to High Court orders and interacted with undertrials and convicts.
“The team observed that the detainees booked under various criminal cases are in a highly depressed mental condition and feel frustrated due to lack of adequate legal aid, facilities for arranging escorts to attend courts on due dates, proper medical facilities, food and lodging problems,” reads the report. When a number of witnesses are declared protected witnesses, their names are not disclosed to prisoners for ‘security reasons’ and the statements are recorded in chambers of judges which are also not made available to them, it said
The NIA Act, the report said, has succeeded ‘draconian laws’ like TADA, POTA and ULA(P) Act and contains provisions which give sweeping powers to police. Governor Vohra recently advocated the extension of jurisdiction of NIA to the state in cases booked under Ranbir Penal Code, which provides jurisdiction to J&K police only. “The application of NIA is a matter of legal controversy as a communication of J&K State Law Department indicates that no notification has been issued so far extending jurisdiction of the NIA Act for J&K,” the report said.
The team comprised the Bar’s Vice President Aijaz Bedar, Joint Secretary Anwar-ul-Islam Shaheen, Treasurer Hamid Shafi Hakeem and members including Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, Manzoor Ahmad Dar, Arshad Andrabi, Mohammad Shafi Reshi and Bilal Ahmad Wani.
“The team observed that the detainees are facing protracted trials in various trial courts with no adequate legal aid and support. Those detained under Safety Act are booked for political considerations and according to them they are innocent,” the report said. It has also highlighted that a High Court-appointed committee headed by respective District Sessions Judges are not visiting the jails regularly. “The orders of the High Court providing for creation of posts of medical staff in every jail have not been implemented so far in all jails,” it added, calling for improving the quality of food and other facilities provided to prisoners.
Besides, it said, there is an urgent need to provide telephone facility to detainees so they can interact with their family members as is being provided to their counterparts in Tihar Jail, New Delhi.