Allahabad HC: Appalling conditions of the state jails, indifference shown to the plight of prisoners

Hearing a PIL, the bench took serious note of the meagre wage offered to inmates, tremendous overcrowding, murders inside jails, grants one last chance to the state to act firmly
Image: Hindustan Times

On July 4, the Allahabad High Court took serious note of the appalling conditions of the jails throughout the state of Uttar Pradesh and the plight and sufferings of the convicts and undertrials within, and it ordered the State Government to act decisively to change the wage policy for those incarcerated.

In order to ensure conditions (inside jail faculties) for a dignified human existence inside the jails, the Court reminded the state government, emphasising that prisoners are also a part of society, that failing to provide a decent environment could prevent the justice delivery system from delivering justice with dignity.

It is dignity that is at the root of the justice delivery system so that any punishment awarded is met out in accordance with the law in circumstances that are conducive to human life is without offending the basic/fundamental human rights.” (Para 6)

In essence, the bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea concerning the deplorable and unacceptable conditions of state jails and the current wage levels for inmates. On this, the divisive bench of Chief Justice Pritinker Diwaker and Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh observed that the State’s position and approach are primarily to be blamed for the said matter’s continued pending status.

Perusal of the order sheet indicates, the matter has remained pending largely on account of the stand/approach adopted by the State. It borders on indifference to the plight of the prisoners and under trials. That indifference if exists, may never find acceptance to the Court.” (Para 3)

Reprimanding the state for not taken any action even after being given ample of opportunities by the Court, the Court highlighted that the current meagre sum of wages being given to the incarcerated needs to be revised.

Repeatedly, orders have been passed giving opportunity after opportunity to the State respondents to take an informed decision with respect to revision of wages to be paid to the convicts serving out their sentence. At present, a paltry sum of Rs. 40, Rs. 30 and Rs. 25 is being paid to such convicts. It is informed, the same has not been revised for more than 10 years,” the order stated. (Para 4)

The Court observed that despite the officers of the State generally showing up to the court on the scheduled days, they never gave the Court any assurances about a deadline for when a decision will be given regarding revision of pay or expand and renovate the jail facility. The Court further stated that State officials were simply communicating their serious concerns in a ‘lip service manner.’

This leads us to a prima facie impression that the State authorities are only offering lip service to the grave concern voiced by the Court. Had they been serious, action commensurate to their words and writings offered to the Court (in the affidavits submitted), would be visible. We would not be struggling at the same stage.” (Para 8)

The “tremendous” overcrowding in Uttar Pradesh’s district and central jails was another issue raised by the court. The Court stated that given the number of overcrowding ranges from 0.5 to 3.2, it cannot go unabated. The Court stated that society has gone through enough hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

…the State authorities appear to have not woken up to the imperative need to urgently increase the jail facility adequately, to house all convicts and under-trial prisoners, in conditions conducive to dignified human existence.” (Para 5)

Further noting that the overcrowding has only fallen marginally from 1.9 in June 2022 to 1.6 in June 2023, the Court said that assurances given by the state authorities were not earnest.

Considering the fact that the average rate of overcrowding has fallen marginally from 1.9 in June, 2022 to 1.6 in June, 2023, we find the assurance given is not worth accepting. The words offered by the State authorities are light.” (Para 9)

Pursuant to this, the Court also took cognizance of the murders being committed inside prisons, the Court said that nothing would be “more shocking” to the Court or the justice delivery system (as a whole) than the murder of any under trial or convict while in the custody of the Court.

Further bemoaning the attitude of the State Government officials towards the predicament of the undertrials and the convicted, the bench instructed the secretary, finance, and the additional IG (prisons) to attend the subsequent hearing in person.

“To allow present circumstance to exist would be to perpetrate similar occurrences in future. That would be a blot on the entire judicial set up,” the Court added as it granted one last chance to the state to act firmly for revisiting prison wages, failing which affidavits must be filed by the officer’s present in Court.

The full judgment can be read here:



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