KARNATAKA ASSEMBLY on Friday passed a Bill for creation of a prison development board to improve prisons in the state and introduce correctional programmes, including self-employment measures for prisoners.
The Bill introduced by state Home Minister Araga Jnanendra was passed amid criticism by a few members from opposition Congress and JDS of the proposed law being utopian in nature and removed from the harsh realities of prisons and prisoners in the state.
The legislation is necessary for “the constitution of the Karnataka Prison Development Board for strengthening of prisons and correctional administration, particularly correctional intervention, skill improvement, welfare of prisoners and prison staff and expanding prison industries”, says the Bill.
Jnanendra said the constitution of the external board for the prison would enable the study of the living conditions of prisoners, correctional measures to allow prisoners to integrate into society after their jail terms, and provide job-oriented training in prisons.
Congress’s Ramesh Kumar pointed out during discussions on the Bill that prisons were centres of corruption because prison staff tend to be paid poorly and they resort to treating prisoners more as clients who will pay them for providing various services. “There are many things that need attention when it comes to prisons but this Bill does not address them,” he said.
His party colleague U T Khader said prisons have become dens where young persons who are arrested tend to become bigger criminals.
Jnanendra said one of the aims of the prison development board is to examine the prison industries and to start new job-oriented programmes to enable prisoners to earn while they are in prison and to also make them employable when they are released. He said prisons in Karnataka have large amounts of land that are not utilised and the prison development board would enable its better utilisation.
Two other Bills introduced by the Home Minister – one to enable audio-video recordings of witnesses in trials in sessions courts and a second to allow usage of blood samples, DNA samples, voice samples and iris scan samples as identifications for prisoners apart from photos, fingerprints and footprints that are collected when a person is sent to prison – were also passed in the Assembly.
The Code of Criminal Procedure (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2021 modifies the CrPC of 1973 to allow audio-video recording of evidence provided by a witness in a trial in the presence of the advocate of the person accused in a case.
The Identification of Prisoners (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2021, which amends the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, allows the collection of “blood sample, DNA sample, voice sample and iris scan sample within the definition of the word measurements of offender for effective surveillance and prevention of breach of peace and crime”’.
The Identification of Prisoners Bill empowers local police superintendents to authorise collection of the biological identification markers and gives the SP the power to order destruction of the samples after 10 years – unless ordered otherwise by a legal authority identified under the law.