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Prison reforms: SC seeks details of jails having over 150 pc occupancy


Press Trust of India New Delhi
The Supreme Court has asked the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to look into the issue of overcrowding of prisons and furnish figures before it regarding the population in the jails where occupancy was over 150 per cent as on December 31 last year.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur also asked an advocate, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, to look into the issue of rehabilitation and welfare of women prisoners as well as their children, including the aspect of education of such kids.

The bench, which also comprised Justices Kurian Joseph and Deepak Gupta, asked NALSA Director Surinder S Rathi to ascertain through the member secretaries of the state legal services authorities, the number of vacant posts lying in major prisons in all states and union territories.

"For the time being, we request Surinder Rathi, Director, NALSA to look into the issue of overcrowding as highlighted by the amicus and furnish figures of the population in the jails where occupancy is more than 150 per cent as on December 31, 2017," the bench said.

The apex court said the issues related to standard operating procedure for Under Trial Review Committees (UTRCs) and responses received from states and union territories on open jails would be dealt by it on the next date of hearing on March 27.

A UTRC, set up in every district, deliberates and recommends the release of undertrial prisoners and convicts who have undergone their sentences or are entitled to be released from jail due to bail or remission granted to them.

Semi-open prisons or open prisons allow convicts to work outside the jail premises and earn a livelihood and return in the evening. The concept was brought in to assimilate the convicts with the society and reduce their psychological pressure as they faced lack of confidence in leading normal lives outside.

The top court is hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country.

It had earlier expressed shock at the large number of people languishing in jails in "complete violation" of their rights despite recommendations for their release by the legal services authority and had termed the situation as unacceptable.

In September last year, the apex court had also passed an order on the issue of custodial deaths and said this was a crime and such incidents indicated the "apparent disdain" of the state to the life and liberty of prisoners.

It had also passed a slew of directions over unnatural deaths and on prison reforms across India.

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First Published: Feb 26 2018 | 2:50 PM IST

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