The Delhi Police Thursday approached the Supreme Court seeking to relax the direction prohibiting handcuffing of arrested persons and undertrial prisoners until the Covid-19 pandemic subsides in order to ensure safe transit between jail or police stations and courts while producing or escorting the undertrial prisoners and arrested persons to courts, hospitals and other places.
In its application, the police contended that it apprehends that the transit of undertrial prisoners between jail and courts as also transit of accused persons by holding their hand will expose both the prisoner as well as the police personnel accompanying them to the Covid-19 virus and because it would be difficult to ensure social distancing, it would increase the possibility of infection.
“It will be unsafe to hold the prisoner/accused by hand in close proximity. Further, even if the police personnel wear gloves, it will not give the sufficient grip to hold the prisoner/accused, even in that event they have to move in close proximity and cannot ensure social distancing norms. Therefore, if they are handcuffed, the police personnel escorting them can hold them from a distance, thereby ensuring safe distancing”, the plea said.
The plea submitted that in these difficult times the Delhi Police had lost several of its officers who were infected with the virus while performing their duties as frontline covid warriors.
“There are instances where their family members got infected through them and lost their lives. There are thousands of Delhi Police personnel’s who are infected with the contagion and are undergoing treatment”, the plea said.
The Supreme Court in Sunil Batra vs. Delhi Administration (1978) held that the indiscriminate resort to handcuffs when accused persons are taken to and from the court and the expedient of forcing irons on prison inmates was illegal and should be stopped forthwith save in a small category of cases.
Reckless ‘ handcuffing and chaining in public “degrades, puts to shame finer sensibilities and is a slur on our culture,” the court had ruled.
The same was reiterated by the top court in Citizens for Democracy vs. State of Assam (1995) where it held the rule that handcuffs or other fetters should not be forced on a prisoner – convicted or under-trial- while lodged in a jail anywhere in the country or while transporting or in transit from one jail to another or from jail to court and back.
“The police and the jail authorities, on their own, shall have no authority to direct the handcuffing of any inmate of a jail in the country or during transport from one jail to another or from jail to court and back”, the court held.
The article was originally published in The Leaflet.