Uttarakhand HC slams State for submitting ‘vague’ affidavit on prison conditions

The court noted that the prison authorities have submitted incomplete details of jails across the State

Image Courtesy:hindustantimes.com

On a public interest litigation (PIL) filed for raising the issue of failure of the State to enact any policy or rules with regards to premature release of convicting prisoners, after they have completed 14 years of sentence, the Uttarakhand High Court observed that the affidavit filed by the Inspector General of Prisons was “absolutely vague”.

Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma had directed the Director General of Prisons to file a report on the conditions of jails, reformative techniques used to reform prisoners, working strength of the jail department, the vacancies and budgetary allocation for the jail department.

The Bench referred to the affidavit and stated, “Bare perusal of the affidavit clearly reveals that the affidavit is shorn off concrete details. It is absolutely vague in its content.”

With respect to the facilities in jail, the Uttarakhand High Court noted that the jail authorities failed to mention the details of the number of training halls and sheds available in District Jail, Haridwar. The court said, “Although, he claims that there is a skill development programme, the exact nature and the content of the programme has not been revealed.”

The court read the affidavit submitted by the IG, Prisons which stated that in the first phase, CCTV cameras are being installed in Dehradun and Haridwar jails and sub jails. The court, however, noted that the affidavit failed to mention as to when the said phase began. The Bench remarked, “The present status of the first phase? When the second phase would begin? And the time frame required for ensuring that CCTV cameras are installed in all the jails. The critical information is conspicuously missing from the affidavit.”

The Court addressed the point of reformative techniques used in jails as mentioned in the State’s affidavit that said that training was being provided to the inmates with regards to stitching, carpentering, power loom, nursery/gardening under the Kaushal Vikas Yojana. The Court noted that although the affidavit finds mention of the yojana, it clearly misses out the details as to whether or not such yojana was being implemented in all the jails across the State.

On the issue of distance education imparted by IGNOU and NIOS, the court said that the affidavit does not mention whether education imparted by these organisations is done on a weekly or monthly basis.

On the aspect of training and education inside jails, the Court observed that the affidavit failed to mention the details as regards to the specific area of training being imparted. It remarked, “Whether it is the training in an academic area, or in a technical area, or vocational area? Moreover, there is no indication whether the volunteers of Dev Sanskriti University are the students, or the faculty members of the said University.”

Observing that the basic course of Art of Living was being conducted by a live telecast in jails, the Court went ahead to inquire as to whether Shri Ravi Shankar himself conducted the said training or whether it was done by his devotees or trained personnel.

The affidavit further stated that the working strength of the said department was 624 against the sanctioned strength of 1030 posts. However, the court noted that, “he has not mentioned as to how the said vacancies are scheduled to be filled up? And the time period it would take to fill up these larger vacancies.”

On the issue of overcrowding of jails, the State has accepted that there was a grave problem of overcrowding in almost all the jails in the State. The court said, “District Jail, Haridwar has capacity of 840, whereas presently it houses 1328 prisoners; likewise, sub-jail, Haldwani, was constructed for housing merely 382 prisoners. But presently, it houses 1756 prisoners. According to Mr. Anshuman, the total capacity of all the jails is for housing 3540 prisoners, whereas presently 6608 prisoners are being housed. Thus, obviously the problem of overcrowding stares all of us in our face.”

The court further noted that despite this issue, the government has sanctioned construction of only three jails in the State. “However, when these three jails were sanctioned? What is the status of the construction of three jails? What is the capacity of these three jails, is unclear”, recorded the order.

The court noted that while dealing with the inmate population, Mr. Anshuman (IG, Prisons) did not reveal the number of under-trials, and number of convicted prisoners. Moreover, he also did not disclose the basis of classification of the under-trials and the convicted prisoners.

Thus, the court directed the IG, Prisons to submit a “more detailed and a more clear affidavit” on these issues. The matter will be heard on April 20.

The order may be read here:


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