We Continue to Treat Our Prisoners as Subjects, Not Citizens: Uttarakhand HC
The Uttarakhand High Court has taken note of the utterly deplorable conditions of prisons in the state and expressed its dismay over how the state government failed to fulfill its responsibility. The bench of Chief Justice Raghvendraa Singh Chauhan and Justice Narayan Singh Dhanik have decided to keep its monitoring jurisdiction over the matter after lamenting over the poor conditions of prison where prisoners are ”stuff liked sardines” and are made to sleep on floors and in some cases, forced to live in tin sheds as well.
The court has now formed a three-member committee to monitor the condition of 13 prisons in the state and to give recommendations to the state government within 3 months. The State government is obliged to follow through with these recommendations within 6 months of receiving them.
The court has decided to hear the case on the Wednesday of every 3rd week of each month.
On November 17, the court had directed the Inspector General of Prisons to visit the 13 jails of the state, and to give his report along with photographs of each jail and provide recommendations for reforms. The court, after perusal of the report and the photographs, deemed the situation to be horrifying in prisons. Here are some key findings:
The court took note of the part about the Haridwar district jail and commented how it was over-crowded with 65 female prisoners accommodated in a single barrack and 58 male prisoners in each barrack. The court also noted how there was no gynecologist attached to the prison despite having so many female inmates. “This is, indeed, surprising considering the fact that women would continue to have gynecological problems periodically, and yet the Government has not even bothered to attach a single gynecologist, or an obstetrician, in the medical faculty provided in the jail,” the court said.
In Sub-jail Roorkee, there are 625 prisoners, while the capacity is 244 prisoners. It meant that 75 male prisoners were housed in a single barrack and the 18 female inmates were in a single barrack. The court noted that the gynecologist is on call only, further there is no prison industry and neither is there any educational facility. The photographs revealed that inmates are forced to sleep on the floor and the toilets are in deplorable condition as “the walls are all dirty, unpainted, and there is hardly any sense of hygiene. Similarly, even the kitchen operating in the jail is in a tin-shed.”
The court noted that at the district jail, Dehradun, 54 male prisoners “have to be stuffed like sardines in a single barrack” with no space to keep their personal belongings and 87 women inmates are cramped in two barracks. There are also 3 children living with female inmates who are given elementary education by an “educated female inmate”. Considering the fact that there are 87 female prisoners, there is not even a single gynecologist attached with the medical staff
This is a Central jail which is also overcrowded where 23 male inmates are lodged in a single barrack. The Central Jail, Sitarganj also houses the Sampoornanand Open Air Camp. Although the capacity of the Camp is 300 inmates, presently there are only forty-two inmates in the camp. However, the condition of the open air camp is dilapidated. “The sheds looks like that they have been constructed for animals, and not a place one would expect a human being to live,” the court remarked.
“Surprisingly, it is in these tin-sheds or tin-shanties that the Government expects a prisoner to live after he has reformed himself/herself, after the prisoner can be brought back safely to the mainstream of the society. The contrast between the accommodation available at the Open Air Camp with the accommodation available at the Central Jail would certainly discourage a prisoner to reform himself/herself.”
Haldwani and Nainital
“The Sub-Jail Haldwani and the District Jail, Nainital, which are ironically right under the nose of this High Court, are the worst of the lot. Both in Sub-Jail Haldwani and in the District Jail, Nainital, prisoners are not even provided with beds,” the court noted. At Haldwani sub-jail, there are 180 prisoners housed in one barrack. “It is beyond imagination as to how 180 human beings can be stuffed into a barrack. It is not beyond imagination that 180 human beings will find it difficult to even breathe in a barrack. It is unclear whether these 180 human beings have sufficient space to sleep, or do they have to sleep by turns, or in shifts,” the court said. Also, there are 45 females in each barrack and no gynecologist.
District jail, Nainital has all male prisoners and no prison industry and one inmate teacher imparts education to others.
Each barrack has 52 male prisoners. The pictures of District Jail, Almora clearly reveal the horrifying conditions of the barracks, as the floors are broken and unhygienic, and the prisoners are forced to sleep on the said floors. The kitchen is absolutely unhygienic and uses firewood for the purpose of cooking. The toilets are absolutely unclean, unkept and unhygienic.
There is a Judicial Lock-up at Lohaghat in District Champawat. If one were to describe what hell must look like, one merely has to look at the photographs of the Judicial Lock-up at Lohaghat. Despite the fact that it is called a Judicial Lock-up, it is a small room, which is totally dilapidated from inside, and the walls are absolutely dark and dingy.
“This Court has also been informed by the District Judge, Champawat that female undertrials are kept in a room which is “6X6”. Moreover, since there is no attached kitchen for cooking the food for the undertrials, the food is cooked in the toilets,” the court said.
Comments about the State
The court observed that the State seems to have forgotten its pious and constitutional duty towards the jail inmates. Despite the fact that a person is incarcerated in jail, yet Article 21 of the Constitution of India dictates and demands that the Right to Life has to be respected by one and all, it further stated.
“If the State is of the opinion that by keeping the prisoners in such harsh conditions, it would lead to reform of the prisoners then the State is deluding itself,” the court said.
The court was also informed by the IGP that in the last year's budget, not a single penny was given for maintenance of the jails throughout the state. A jail in Pithoragarh has been under construction for 15 years and in this period only the outer boundary wall has been constructed after investment of Rs. 7 crores.
The court issued the following directions to the State government:
(i) The State Government shall not only improve the conditions of the existing jails, but shall also ensure that new jails are constructed in an expeditious manner.
(ii) An Open Air Camp, on the Rajasthan Model, should be constructed in the Garhwal Region, preferably either in Haridwar or Dehradun district. While constructing the Open Air Camp in the Garhwal Region, the Open Air Camp at Sitarganj, namely Sampoornanand Open Air Camp, should also be reconstructed on the Rajasthan Model.
(iii) The State Government shall provide sufficient budget for the maintenance of the jails, which are presently operating in the State.
(iv) The facilities being provided in the jails, namely the kitchen, needs to be modernized, and be up to date. The bathrooms need to be redone, and renovated. Factories need to be established in order to upgrade the skills of the prisoners. Better medical facilities, including permanent Doctors, male nurses, female nurses, gynecologist where the jails have female prisoners, need to be ensured on a war footing.
(v) The 407 vacancies in different cadres need to be filled up as expeditiously as possible, and preferably within a period of six months from today. In case the UKSSSC finds it difficult to do so, then the State Government is directed to take a strict action against it. For, the Commission cannot abdicate its responsibility of recruiting sufficient staff. Needless to say, the jail department cannot be run until and unless it is given complete staff to look after the large population of the jails.
(vi) The State Government is also directed to consider establishing of District Jails in the six districts, which are presently without any jails.
(vii) The State Government is, hereby, directed to construct a new Judicial Lock-up at Lohaghat with all modern amenities; it is further directed to ensure that the present Judicial Lockup at Lohaghat is completely renovated and a separate kitchen is provided for cooking of the food.
(viii) The State Government should grant the budget requested by the Jail Department.
(ix) Mr. Ranjeet Singh Sinha, the learned Secretary (Home), and Mr. Pushpak Jyoti, the learned Inspector General of Prisons, Uttarakhand, are directed to inform this Court, on a monthly basis, about the progress being made with regard to the implementation of the directions issued by this Court in today’s order.
The court also constituted a committee constituting Mr. V.K. Singh, former IG (Prison), Telangana, as the Chairman; Prof. Vijay Raghavan, TISS Mumbai; and Prof. Murali Karnam, NALSAR, Hyderabad. It has tasked the Committee to inspect all the 13 Jails in Uttarakhand and to make recommendations, firstly, with regard to the enhancement of the infrastructure, and with regard to improving the amenities available for the benefit of the jail inmates. Secondly the Committee shall also recommend the necessary laws, which need to be enacted or promulgated for the benefit of the jail inmates. The Committee would submit their recommendations to the State Government within a period of three months. The State is duty bound to carry out their recommendations within a period of six months thereafter.
The court, in a monitoring jurisdiction, has decided to hear the case on the Wednesday of every 3rd week of each month. The court will next hear the case on January 12, 2022.
The complete order may be read here:
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