Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Wednesday directed all Principal and District Judges to personally visit prisons in their districts and submit a report on the condition of prisoners. A division bench of Justices R Sudhakar and Tashi Rabstan also directed the Kashmir High Court Bar Association (KHCBA) to prepare a chart indicating facilities that are lacking in jails for the prisoners.
The direction followed submissions by KHCBA President Mian Qayoom that despite orders of the high court, the Principal and District Judges were not visiting the jails.
As per the court’s directions in 2012, District and Session Judges along with District Magistrates, District Superintendents of Police and Chief Medical Officers were required to visit jail(s) in their district and submit a report on whether statutory facilities required to be provided to jail inmates were indeed available to them.
“Human right is a cherished right which is available to all human beings and such right is to be safeguarded,” the court said in its order on Wednesday.
Qayoom told the court that jail prisoners were facing several difficulties and their incarceration was being prolonged to delay their trial.
“They are not taken to court for facing the trial on one pretext or the other. Sometimes, lack of an escort is cited as excuse and sometimes, the excuse is law and order problems. By such means, cases are dragged on and on,” Qayoom said.
The high court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in 2011 by the KHCBA seeking better jail conditions for the inmates and redress of their grievances. The PIL also sought better conditions and redress of grievances for persons detained at interrogation centres according to the Jail Manual and Detenue General Order, 1968.
Qayoom brought to the court’s notice the plight of persons lodged in jails outside the Valley in contravention of directions given by the Supreme Court. “They are lodged in these jails so that they are not presented before the court for facing trial,” he said and urged the court that all the detainees should be brought back to the Valley so that their families can meet them. He said that the Supreme Court had allowed prisoners two meetings with their families in a week.
Qayoom submitted that when anybody meets the detainee, no food item or any other eatable is allowed to them.
Referring to the jail manual, he urged the court to direct the authorities to establish a mini hospital in every jail.
“No medical facility, manpower (doctor, medical assistant or nurse) is available in jails. In some jails, even a nursing orderly is not available,” Qayoom told the court.
He said that providing basic requirements to jail inmates was a matter of their right and he referred to a letter written by former Chief Justice RC Lahoti to the Supreme Court that was treated as a PIL and landmark directions on jail reforms passed on it.
On June 13, 2013, former Chief Justice RC Lahoti had written a letter to the Chief Justice of India on the inhuman conditions in 1,382 prisons in India as reported in a newspaper. The apex court ruled that prisoners deserve to be treated with dignity.
“Like in other states, there are jails in the Valley that lack basic facilities like food, clothing, toilet, urinal and medical facilities,” Qayoom said and urged the court to consider these issues on priority.