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Written By- Vishad Srivastava
The plight of undertrial prisoners is one of the most neglected talk in the legal fraternity. This issue needs to be taken more seriously but between the separate media trial and the real trial the voice of innocent prisoners somewhat get lost. There is no doubt that the number of undertrial prisoners are more than real convicters and we often neglect this part as because before the conviction by our honourable court media do themselves their illogical trial and held every prisoner on trial a offender, this view got it’s support in the wake of recent acquittals of Swami Aseemanand in Mecca Masjid Blast Case, B.J.P M.L.A Maya Kodnani from Naroda Patiya case or 2 G spectrum acquittals in all these cases media had brutally assassinated the character of all acquitted persons which will be a blot on their life forever. Moreover, we also have a apprehension that real culprits are still not in the hand of police but we have to look the another side of coin that what about the precious time and suffering of these peoples who have to remain a undertrial prisoners and have to face all the grave problems. However our Supreme Court had provided the guidelines for undertrial prisoners which have brought a flame in this issue as to safeguards have also the same importance as of a law and in our country till we do not have a law this guidelines will be a support to the plight of undertrial prisoners.
Guidelines by the Apex Court: The social justice bench of Supreme Court in the case of In Re Inhuman Conditions in 1382 prisons had issued a guidelines relating to prison reforms in the country. Bench Comprising of Justice Madan Lokur and Justice R.K. Aggarwal had said that ‘it is a matter of grief and pain that since so many years we do not have specific laws regarding the undertrial prisoners right Although we have Article 21 which also talks about the plight of undertrial prisoners but that is not sufficient at all. So in the wake of all this it is necessary to issue some guidelines so that till the law is made by legislature till then affected persons get their grievances addressed with the help of these guidelines.’ It is appreciable that judges perform their duties well enough but it is also interesting to note that behind this landmark decision there is a background of letter of former Chief Justice R.S. Lahoti. Justice Lahoti written letter in June 2013 to then C.J.I about the condition of prisons and condition of 1382 undertrial prisoners after that letter took the form of public interest litigation and it was mention in the registry and case was filed. After this Social Justice Bench ordered to government to furnish copies of information related to plight of undertrial prisoners and problem of overcrowding including all other crisis of undertrial prisoners which they have to face. Subsequently following the order of the Court the Ministry of Home Affair filed an affidavit requesting all the states and union territories to follow the court’s order and provide the information as requested, however some states and union territories did not furnish the information. It was stated that it was due to the improper management information systems that the information could not be aggregated. After this solicitor general at that time presented the issues and their respective replies. Issue were mostly related to prisoners right and state obligation towards them it also include question on repartition of prisoners act, 2003 where India is also signatory to this international agreement.This agreement is basically transfer of culprits to their respective nation jails after following due process mention in this act.
After discussing all this issue the apex court gave the following direction related to undertrial prisoners:
MHA was directed to study Prisoners Management System installed in Tihar Jail and suggest suitable modification/suggestion to the system and so that the software can also be used in other Jails in India.
- National Legal Services Authority is directed to appoint a senior officer as Nodal officer who would help in the Court in dealing with the present matter.
- Member Secretary of NALSA in coordination of with MHA and State Legal Service Authority are directed to establish an under trial review committee in all the district of the Country for seeking an effective of section 436A of the Code.
- That till the next scheduled meeting , the committee should have released those under trial prisoners who are entitled to benefit under Section 436A of the Code and also those under trial prisoners who have undergone their period of incarceration should be released even if half of their sentence is not completed.
- Bureau of Police Research and Development , Attached office of MHA, is hereby directed that it should undertake review Model Prison Manual within three months as the present Model Prison Manual, 2003 has become out-dated in the light of technology advancement and circumstances.
- Member Secretary of NALSA is to coordinate with SLSA to provide legal aid to under trial prisoners and seek release of those who have either committed compoundable offences or unable to furnish bail bond.
With this landmark guidelines apex court performed it’s obligation towards undertrial prisoners who are nonetheless being talked. We have come in the era where we donot want to break out the sereotype and here we are typecasting as every undertrial a prisoner this issue is not much in light when we talk about normal undertrial prisoner but this issue becom vast when any one is facing terrorist charge then role of media comes up and brutal assaination of character of arrested persons is done through fake trial by media houses. Although this issue is not very much heated but this bedrock issue needs to be addressed like all other problems of undertrialprisonere which are uncountable. The need of the hour is to have particular law for undertrial prisoners and need to safeguard their right otherwise the day is not far away where in front of our eyes humanity will be assassinated and we will be just a mute witness.