Decongesting J&K Jails: HC Seeks Prisoner Details

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Srinagar—With the aim to decongest jails, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday sought details about the capacity of the prisons in the state with a breakup about convicts, under-trials, woman and those lodged under Public Safety Act.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice M. K. Hanjura directed secretary State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) to file a status report, dealing with the nine issues referred by the Supreme Court regarding jail inmates. 

The court also asked DG Prisons to inform the court about the number of persons who are brought to jails on every month and released every month so that the input and output capacity of jails are ascertained. 

The court said that SLSA will have to work on conditions and other facilities provided to jail inmates. Counsel representing SLSA submitted that a comprehensive report will be filed in this connection by next date of hearing in the PIL.

The court observed that delay in trial and overcrowding in the jails was matter of concern.  

In 2014, the High Court had mobilised judicial officers across the state to visit every prison in their district to identify and release under-trials in consonance with the directions by the Apex Court.   

In a landmark ruling, the apex court on September 5 2014 ordered the release of all undertrial prisoners who have already served half the term of sentence except for those whose offence attracts death penalty.

As per the verdict passed by a three-judge Bench led by then Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha, Sessions Judges, Chief Judicial Magistrates and Magistrates were to start their jail visits from October 1 2014 to identify and release undertrials. Reports were to be filed to the respective State High Courts, which were to pass them on to the Supreme Court.

Pursuant to directions, high court’s Registrar General had issued a circular on 12 November 2014, asking all the jurisdictional magistrates, CJMs and the session judges to hold one sitting in a week in each jail or prison to identify cases of those under trial prisoners who have completed half of the maximum period of imprisonment provided for the offence under law for which the prisoner has been jailed. 

The judicial officers, as per the circular, have been asked to pass appropriate orders in the jail for release of such under-trial prisoners after complying with the procedure prescribed under section 436A of the CrpC (central).

The Section says that undertrial prisoners, who suffered detention during the period of investigation, inquiry or trial for one-half of their maximum imprisonment, should be released by the court on personal bond with or without sureties.

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