February,7,2016: A prisoner is entitled to be treated with dignity and sympathy, said the Supreme Court while directing the Centre and state governments on Friday to provide all basic facilities to jail inmates commensurate with human dignity.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and R K Agrawal passed a slew of directions to reduce the number of prisoners in overcrowded jails and directed the prison authorities to take steps to release those who are languishing in jail for not being able to pay the bail bond. “A prisoner is required to be treated as a human being entitled to all the basic human rights, human dignity and human sympathy,” it said.
It directed Undertrial Review Committee in districts to meet every quarter and take steps for the release of under-trials and convicts who have undergone their sentence or are entitled to release because of remission granted to them. It said the under-trials who have undergone detention for half of the maximum period of imprisonment specified for his offence shall be released on his personal bond with or without sureties as specified under Section 436A of CrPC.
“The Committee should specifically look into aspects pertaining to effective implementation of Section 436 of the CrPC and Section 436A of the CrPC so that under-trial prisoners are released at the earliest and those who cannot furnish bail bond due to their poverty are not subjected to incarceration only for that reason,” it said.
Expressing concern over poor quality of legal aid provided to indigent litigants, the bench directed State Legal Services Authority to hire adequate number of competent lawyers to provide free legal advice to the poor accused.
“The Director General of Police/Inspector General of Police in-charge of prisons should ensure that there is proper and effective utilization of available funds so that the living conditions of the prisoners is commensurate with human dignity. This also includes the issue of their health, hygiene, food, clothing, rehabilitation etc,” it said.
“Prison-overcrowding compels prisoners to be kept under conditions that are unacceptable in light of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Offenders to which India is the signatory,” it said.
Prisons in India are overcrowded to the extent of 129% and 67% of all the prisoners in jails are under trial prisoners and the number of such prisoners is said to be about 2,78,000. There are 3470 under-trial prisoners in different jails due to their inability to furnish bail bonds.
The court also issued notice to the secretary, ministry of women and child development to prepare a manual for improving living conditions for juveniles who are in observation homes or special homes in line with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
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