Jail reforms: HC forms 2-member panel to monitor implementation of SC orders

Srinagar—The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has formed a two-member committee of judges for monitoring the implementation of the directions by the Supreme Court on jail reforms.

“The Chief Justice has been pleased to constitute the Committee comprising Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir (Chairman) and Justice Janak Raj Kotwal (Member) for monitoring the implementation of the directions dated passed by the Supreme Court in Writ Petition, (Civil) No. 406 of 2013 titled Re-lnhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons,” said Court’s Registrar General in an order.

The Supreme Court September 15 had observed that the right sounding noises critical of custodial violence, in any form, cannot achieve any useful purpose unless persons in authority hear the voices of the victims or the silence of the dead.

The observation was made by a division bench of the apex court comprising Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said on a Public Interest Litigation on ‘inhuman’ conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the India.

“Custodial violence has always been a matter of great concern for all civilized societies. (it) could take the form of third degree methods to extract information– the method used need not result in any physical violence but could be in the form of psychological violence. (It) could also include a violation of bodily integrity through sexual violence – it could be to satisfy the lust of a person in authority or for some other reason. The ‘Mathura Rape Case’ is one such incident that most are familiar with,” the top court observed.

The Mathura rape case was an incident of custodial rape on 26 March 1972, wherein a young tribal girl was allegedly raped by two policemen on the compound of Desai Ganj Police Station in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. After the Supreme Court acquitted the accused, there was public outcry and protests, which eventually led to amendments in rape law in India.

“Custodial violence could, sometimes, lead to the death of its victim who is in a terribly disadvantaged and vulnerable condition. All these forms of custodial violence make it abhorrent and invite disparagement from all sections of civilized society,” the court said, emphasising that like most societies, India was not strangers to custodial violence and unnatural deaths.

In one of the directions, the top court asked all high courts to register a suo-motu petition to identify kin of prisoners who admittedly died an unnatural death after 2012 and award suitable compensation to them.

It also directed all state governments to appoint counsellors and support persons for counselling prisoners, particularly first-time offenders.

The court also directed all states to study the availability of medical assistance to prisoners and take remedial steps wherever necessary.

"We request the Chief Justice of the high court to register a suo motu public interest litigation with a view to identify the next of kin of prisoners who have admittedly died an unnatural death as revealed by the NCRB during the period between 2012 and 2015 and even thereafter and awards suitable compensation, unless adequate compensation has already been awarded,” the court said.

As per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there were 126 unnatural deaths in prisons during 2012, 115 in 2013, 195 in 2014 and 115 in 2015.

"The state governments are directed to appoint counsellors and support persons for counselling prisoners, particularly first-time offenders. In this regard the services of recognised NGOs can be taken and encouraged," it said.

The apex court also directed the Ministry of Woman and Child Development to discuss with the official concerned of the state governments "and formulate procedures for tabulating the number of children (if any) who suffer an unnatural death in child care institutions where they are kept in custody either because they are in conflict with law or because they need care and protection".

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