HC seeks Centre’s, Delhi government’s reply on undertrial prisoners

New Delhi(web team): Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought responses from the Centre and city government on the release of all undertrial prisoners including women who have spent half of the maximum sentence in jail prescribed for the offences they have been charged with.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw asked the government to “take instruction” by March 5 as to why the undertrial prisoners should not be released on bail to reduce the burden of overcrowding in jails. The court’s direction came during a hearing when the bench took suo motu cognisance of Supreme Court directions which said that the High Courts, could direct respective state governments, under whose jurisdiction the jails fell, to take care of prisoners’ complaints about lack of infrastructure facilities, food, hygiene and health care among other things.

The apex court had on November 13, 2014, said that the prisons were for convicts and not the undertrials. It had identified nine problem areas required for prison reforms including overcrowding, delay in trial, torture and ill-treatment, neglect of health and hygiene, food and clothing, management of open air prisons and deficiency in communication system.

Taking note of the superior court’s direction, the bench tagged the matter along with similar issues pending before it. The High Court has been dealing with two PILs relating to ensuring minimum human rights to inmates of Tihar Jail here. As a large number of undertrials were cramped in unhygienic conditions, they were being affected by numerous diseases in the jail premises, the court was earlier informed. Tuberculosis and other contagious diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, typhoid were common in Tihar Jail premises, the two PILs have said.