Srinagar: The High court on Thursday directed state and jail authorities to submit a detailed status report regarding the number of undertrials, convicts, acquitted, women, children, and those lodged under the Public Safety Act, within four weeks.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice MK Hanjura directed the secretary of State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) and the member secretary of law department to file this status report.
The report has been sought to know the status of the nine issues referred by the Supreme Court regarding the maintenance of jail inmates. These nine issues are: overcrowding in jails, delay in trial, torture and ill treatment, neglect of health and hygiene, sub-standard food and inadequate clothing, prison vices, no means of communication, streamlining of jail visits, and management of open-air prisons.
The court also passed directions to the DG Prisons to inform the court about the number of persons who are brought to jails and released every month.
The court said that the SLSA will have to work on improving conditions and other facilities provided to jail inmates. The counsel representing SLSA submitted that a comprehensive report will be filed in this regard by the next date of hearing.
The court observed that delay in trial and overcrowding in jails was a matter of concern, and is indirectly related to the other problems faced by jail inmates.
“It is important that every individual is treated on human grounds, whether in jail or at some other place,” Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed said.
In 2014, the High Court had mobilised judicial officers across the state to visit every prison in their district to identify and release undertrials in consonance with the directions given by the Supreme Court.
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on September 5, 2014, ordered the release of all undertrial prisoners who had already served half theterm of sentence for the crimes they were accused of, except for those whose offence merited the death penalty.
As per the verdict passed by a three-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, sessions judges and chief judicialmagistrates and magistrates were to start their jail visits from October 1, 2014, to identify and release undertrials. Reports were to be filed to the respective state High Courts, which were to pass them on to the Supreme Court.
Pursuant to these directions, the JK High Court’s Registrar General issued a circular on November 12, 2014, asking all the magistrates, CJMs and session judges to hold one sitting a week in each jail or prison to identify such undertrials.
The judicial officers, as per the circular, were asked to pass appropriate orders in the jail for release of such undertrial prisoners, after complying with the procedure prescribed under Section 436A of the CrPC.
Section 436A says that undertrial prisoners who suffered detention during the period of investigation, inquiry or trial for one-half of their maximum imprisonment, should be released by the court on personal bond with or without sureties.