Thursday, May 22, 2008

Implement all jail reform recommendations: SC
In a sweeping ruling, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the government to implement the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the rights of jail inmates and the reports of a number of jail reform commissions.
Both NHRC recommendations to the government in 2005 and the reports of commissions formed at different times in the past have stressed the need to seriously upgrade the present infrastructure at prisons across the country and guarantee prisoners their basic human rights like sanitation, room space, quality food and regular health checkups.
Taking up the public interest litigation filed by Pro-Public, an NGO, Justices Bal Ram KC and Tahir Ali Ansari also formed a three-member committee to oversee implementation of the recommendations and reports. The committee should comprise representatives of the Home Minister, the Ministry of Finance and NHRC, the court ruled. The court also ruled that implementation of the recommendations and reports should begin right from the start of the new fiscal year.
"There are already enough recommendations and studies on prison reform and there is no need for more studies. What is needed now is implementation of the recommendations and reports," the justices said in their verdict.
Non-implementation of the recommendations and reports has been a major concern. The jail inmates themselves have launched protests inside the prisons from time to time, demanding implementation.
According to studies carried out by NHRC and the jail reform commissions, the infrastructure at prisons is mostly very old and insufficient for the number of inmates at present. Consequently, the prisons are overcrowded. Besides, inmates have been deprived of quality food, regular health services and sanitary facilities. The condition of women inmates at many prisons is worse as there are often no separate toilets for them.
In the verdict, Justices KC and Ansari also ordered the government to ensure the educational rights of children living with their jail-inmate parents. According to NGO reports, there are 65 such children living in jails.
Similarly, the daily food allowance for inmates should be increased every time the government increases the salaries of civil servants to adjust for inflation, the court said.
The apex court also ordered implementation of the Prison Act in its letter and spirit so that no inmate is deprived of his or her basic right.

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