The Delhi High Court on Tuesday came down heavily on Tihar jail authorities after it was informed that not only was the women’s block at the prison overcrowded, but at least 47 undertrial prisoners (UTP) languishing there were eligible to be released on personal bond.
In a status report filed before the court of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath, the superintendent of the jail admitted that there were 622 women prisoners in Tihar’s Jail No. 6, meant to accommodate only 400 prisoners. Among these, 47 undertrials are eligible for release on a personal bond as they had served more than half of their possible prison term.
The court was also informed that there were eight pregnant women, 28 women undertrials living with children under six years of age and 13 UTPs over 65 years of age.
Delhi government’s standing counsel Rahul Mehra, who appeared for the prison authority, told the court, “Out of 622 inmates, 463 are undertrial prisoners, and there are only 159 convicts”.
When the lawyer submitted that the prisoners could not be released without orders from the concerned courts, the High Court bench pulled up the authorities for not taking steps to release the prisoners.
During the hearing, Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA ) Member Secretary Dharmesh Sharma and Officer on Special Duty SS Rathi also told the court that it had not been able to identify and initiate proceedings to get such prisoners released since the DSLSA did not have data on them.
The DSLSA told the court that due to lack of information given to DSLSA panel lawyers, the authority had not been able to take any action. With the detailed status report being submitted on Tuesday, DSLSA sources said that the process for seeking release of the 47 undertrials would now be initiated.
The HC bench, however, pulled up both Tihar jail authorities and the DSLSA for failing to implement the directions given by the Supreme Court on releasing undertrials, other than those facing charges under “heinous offences”, who had spent over two years waiting for their trial.
“We are surprised why the jail authorities are not taking necessary steps. Direction of this court is not necessary as it comes under the order of Supreme Court,” commented the bench, adding that it will issue detailed directions on the issue.
The high court had last week taken suo motu cognisance of the matter and issued notices to the prison authority.