Taking a serious note of all children who are rendered orphan or untraceable as a result of their mothers’ imprisonment, the Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra director general of police (prisons) to inform it about the statistics on such prisoners and their children, both inside and outside jails.
“It is an accepted position that after women are arrested by the police, very often their children become orphans and with the result that they are either sent to remand homes or center homes,” the HC observed.
A copy of the suggestions will also be made available to the Mumbai Police commissioner and the police in other cities so that all the police stations are made aware of the “peculiar problem” faced by the women in jail.
The court, in addition, directed the DGP (Prisons) to find out how many such children were rendered orphan as a result of the parents’ incarceration.
The HC said quite often prisoners’ children were shifted to places outside the jail, making them untraceable. “We hope that the state of Maharashtra would take into consideration the suggestions which have been made by Prayas (field project of the Tata Institute of Social Science) and submit a detailed response to the said suggestions and also a time frame within which these suggestions can be implemented,” said Justices V M Kanade and B P Colabawalla.
Prayas, headed by TISS professor and project director Dr Vijay Raghavan, has been assisting the HC in the suo motu case of 2014 over a report filed by the former. It pointed out the need for better facilities, protection and welfare of the children of women prisoners.
“Their childhood gets severely affected due to their stay in prison. Their only image of male authority figures is that of police and prison officials. They are unaware of the concept of a home. Boys may sometimes be found talking in the female gender, having grown up only with women, confined in the female ward,” the report said.
Dr Raghavan gave a list of suggestions, termed policy for children of women prisoners, and a timeframe within which it can be implemented. Government’s lawyer Hiten Venegaonkar sought time to go through the suggestions before a ‘concrete’ policy decision could be taken.
The judges said they were aware about the suggestions made under the Maharashtra Probation Of Offenders Rules, 1966, and other guidelines given in the state manual. However, the court said, “In our view, these guidelines are not sufficient for the purpose of effectively dealing with the problem.”
Stating that the suggestions should be submitted to all the principal prisons in the state, the HC said it wanted their superintendents to speak to the women prisoners about their children and ask if they were taken care of by other relatives. “We also request the Maharashtra Legal Services Authorities to look into the suggestions which are incorporated in this document and give its counter on the next date,” the state was told.
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