The Supreme Court said on Monday that adjournments during judicial proceedings, which compel witnesses to visit courts repeatedly to record their statements, is “hard reality” and things will move smoothly if the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) are followed properly.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta observed this while hearing a matter related to deficiencies in jails as highlighted by two apex court judges, one of whom has retired, during their visit to Faridabad jail and an observation home in June this year.
“Witnesses are fed up of coming to the court. This is the hard reality on the ground,” Justice Gupta observed, adding that “if we follow the CrPC, everything will go on smoothly but the practice on the ground are different”.
During the hearing, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench that as per the court’s order, a committee under the chairmanship of retired apex court judge Justice Amitava Roy has been constituted to look into the issues related to jail reforms in the country.
Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, said that 14 points were highlighted by the judges who had visited the Faridabad jail and observation home and some of these issues related to prisons could be referred to the newly appointed committee.
When he referred to one of the issues about non-examination of witnesses in the trial courts, the bench observed, “If the witnesses are not examined, how can we pass a judicial order?”
The two judges — Justice (retd) A K Goel and Justice U U Lalit — who had visited the jail had noted, “In spite of directions of this court, we found instances of witnesses not being examined by the court on the ground of non-availability of time. Adjournments requiring witnesses to repeatedly come to the Court is against the policy of law. There is, thus, need for strict monitoring to ensure that no witness is returned unexamined.”
During the hearing, the Attorney General referred to the non-functioning of video conferencing facility at observation homes for juveniles.
“Every jail in the country has been given a video conferencing unit but there are two things. Some of the jails have not installed it and some of them have installed it but they do not know how to operate it,” the bench said.
“Unless the jail authority starts using what is available to them, how it can be done?” the bench said.
The Attorney General, while saying that states would have to co-operate in this, told the bench that jail authorities must ensure that effective functioning of video conferencing facility should be there.
The bench said that the committee could look into several aspects highlighted by the two judges while some other issues have to be dealt with by the court.
The court also issued notices to standing counsel of all the states and asked them to assist in the matter. It has posted the matter for hearing on October 22.
The apex court had on September 25 constituted a three-member committee to look into the issue of jail reforms and make recommendations on several aspects, including overcrowding in prisons.
The court had said that the committee would also comprise of Inspector General of Police of Bureau of Police Research and Development and Director General (Prisons) of Delhi’s Tihar Jail.
It had asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to issue a notification constituting the ‘Supreme Court Committee on Prison Reforms’.
The bench had passed the order while hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions in 1,382 prisons across India.
On July 13, the top court had taken note of lack of facilities in jails, leading to delayed trials and prolonged incarceration of under-trial prisoners, in the country and had sought the assistance of the Attorney General in the matter.
The court had, on its own, initiated the judicial proceedings after taking note of reports on deficiencies at the Faridabad jail in Haryana and expanded the scope of the case to the entire country.
The court had also perused the report of the District and Sessions judge of Faridabad and had said there were several infrastructural and operational deficiencies like lack of video conferencing and transportation facilities in prison.
It had also considered the orders passed by the Bombay and the Rajasthan High Courts on the lack of facilities in prisons in Maharashtra and Rajasthan before taking cognisance of the matter on its own.