August 25, 2015 1:05:50 am
The Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DLSA) has urged district and sessions judges to look into “mindless arrests and casual custody” leading to overcrowding in jails. The DLSA approached the judges in the six district courts after the Delhi High Court directed it to start the process of securing bail for prisoners who have been in jail for more than six months for “minor” offences without charges being framed against them.
In its report filed in response to a batch of public interest litigations filed over the issue of “overcrowding” in Tihar jail, the DLSA told the bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath that it wrote to the district and sessions judges, informing them that “casual remanding of arrestees to judicial custody and non-liberal approach of the judiciary in grant of bails” was a major reason for overcrowding of jails in Delhi.
“Mindless and casual arrests by police” was another reason for the problem, it said.
“The overcrowding of jails as well as the fact that two-thirds of the inmates are undertrial prisoners is a cause of concern to all of us who are part and parcel of the justice delivery system,” DLSA’s letter states.
The letter lists Supreme Court judgments regarding the standard of care to be taken at the time of arrests and the long duration of imprisonment without trial.
The DLSA said that the apex court had in 2013 directed all courts to undertake a review of the prisoners and enforce the provisions of Section 436A of the CrPC, which states that any prisoner — who is not accused of a crime for which the maximum punishment is death and who has undergone detention for a period extending up to one-half of the maximum period of imprisonment specified for that offence under that law — shall be released by the court on his personal bond with or without sureties.
In July, the High Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the “suffering and grievances” of women undertrial prisoners in an “overcrowded” Tihar and directed the DLSA to start proceedings to secure bail for 105 women prisoners facing “lesser” charges.
The High Court had also directed the district undertrial review committees to review the case of 47 women prisoners who had spent more than half the minimum sentence possible for their offences in jail without trial.
In its report submitted to the High Court last week, the DLSA stated that 51 out of the 152 prisoners mentioned by the Tihar authorities as having spent more than six months in jail had been granted bail last month. The DLSA, in its affidavit filed through member secretary Dharmesh Sharma, said its lawyers had filed bail pleas even for those women who were being represented by their private lawyers till now.
The report stated that a “format of bail application” had been created for the empanelled lawyers to move bail pleas for all prisoners who qualify for review by the undertrial review committee as having spent over half the minimum possible sentence in jail without trial.
The High Court was scheduled to take up the batch of pleas regarding the condition of the prisoners on Monday, but could not. The cases have been adjourned for September.
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