The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to ensure compliance of its order regarding reducing the prison population and improving the living conditions of prisoners saying it is “distressed” to note that no attention is being paid to fundamental and human rights of undertrial and convicted prisoners.
“We are a little distressed to note that even though this court has held on several occasions that prisoners both under trials and convicts have certain fundamental rights and human rights, little or no attention is being paid in this regard by the states and some Union territories including the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
“Certainly fundamental rights and human rights of people, however they may be placed, cannot be ignored only because of their adverse circumstances,” a bench of justices M B Lokur and R K Agarwal said.
It asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to obtain the status report from the states regarding compliance of apex court orders of February 5, May 6 and September 30.
“The information should be collated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and shared with the Additional Solicitor General and the Amicus so that even the rights of prisoners, whether convicts or undertrials are given due importance. The needful be done before the next hearing, that is October 18, 2016,” the bench said.
Referring to various verdicts passed by apex court including Charles Sobraj case on fundamental rights and human rights of convicts and undertrial prisoners, the bench said, “Unfortunately, it seems that the views of this court over the 50 years (since Prabhakar Pandurang Sangzgiri in 1966) have continuously fallen on deaf ears and the situation does not seem to be changing even now.”
“Unless due importance is given to the fundamental rights and human rights of the people, the right to life and the right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution will have no meaning,” the court said.
It also directed Union Ministry of Women and Child Development to expedite preparation of manual for juveniles in custody and is ready on or before November 30.
The apex court also noted that not a single state or Union Territory has bothered to prepare a Plan of Action for reducing the prison population as directed on May 6 and directed the states and Inspectors General of Police to prepare a viable Plan of Action in six months by March 31, 2017.
On the submission that some states have proposals for construction of additional barracks or jails, the apex court said these appear to be “ad hoc proposals” with no time limit specified for completion and in some cases it was not clear whether provision has been made for providing resources for the construction.
The bench took note of the submission of the Amicus Curiae that there there are several jails where over-crowding is to the extent of more than 150 per cent and said situation continues to be “not only tragic but also pathetic”.
In the report, Amicus has submitted that Assam has eight jails, Chhattisgarh 17, Jharkhand 3, Karnataka 7, Kerala 21, Madhya Pradesh 5, Maharashtra 16, Rajasthan 21, Uttar Pradesh 47 and Delhi 12 jails where over-crowding is to the extent of 150 per cent or more.
“It is unfortunate that in spite of our directions the prison authorities have not been able to take any effective steps for reducing over-crowding in jails,” the apex court said.
The court had on February 5, expressed concern over the surging numbers of those incarcerated in prisons across the country, and said overcrowding of jails has gone up even after a slew of directions to check it.