The Supreme Court today asked all high courts to register a suo motu petition to identify kin of prisoners who admittedly died an unnatural death after 2012 and award suitable compensation to them. Passing a slew of directions on prison reforms, the apex court directed all state governments to appoint counsellors and support persons for counselling prisoners, particularly first-time offenders. It also directed all states to study the availability of medical assistance to prisoners and take remedial steps wherever necessary. “We request the Chief Justice of the high court to register a suo motu public interest litigation with a view to identify the next of kin of prisoners who have admittedly died an unnatural death as revealed by the NCRB during the period between 2012 and 2015 and even thereafter and awards suitable compensation, unless adequate compensation has already been awarded,” a bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.
The bench asked the Secretary General of the apex court to sent the copy of its verdict to the Registrar General of every high court within a week. “The state governments are directed to appoint counsellors and support persons for counselling prisoners, particularly first-time offenders. In this regard the services of recognised NGOs can be taken and encouraged,”the bench said. The top court also directed the Ministry of Woman and Child Development to discuss with the official concerned of the state governments “and formulate procedures for tabulating the number of children (if any) who suffer an unnatural death in child care institutions where they are kept in custody either because they are in conflict with law or because they need care and protection”. The bench is hearing a 2013 PIL on prevailing inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country.