Human Rights Law Network


State Level Consultation on Prison Legal Aid, West Bengal

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9th and 10th November, 2013

Venue:  Indian Institute of Training and Development (IITD), Kolkata


Overcrowding, lack of adequate medical care, physical mistreatment of prisoners resulting in custodial deaths, inadequate conditions for female and juvenile detainees, poor administration, long detention of those awaiting trial, and inadequate opportunities for prisoners to communicate with counsel, administrators, and family are some of the plaguing problems inside the jails. The intolerable conditions of prisons compound the misery of prisoners. Out of the whole prison population only 20% prisoners are convicts, while the rest are under-trials. Thousands of poor persons including Muslims, women and juveniles languish in the jails and police lockups, without due process of law.

The 2011 report of the National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, reports overcrowding in a large majority of jails, some operating at over 200 percent of their available capacity, with undertrials accounting for up to two-thirds of the prison population. The central jails are overcrowded by 118.6 percent, while the district jails are overcrowded by 126.9 percent. Amongst the maximum number of overcrowding in jails West Bengal jails ranks 6th (Prison Statics India, 2011, National Crime Record Bureau: i) with the highest number of undertrials languishing in different jails of West Bengal.

Women with children and the mentally ill are among the worst-affected groups. According to available statistics, 1,400 children younger than five are accompanying their mothers in jails.

The absence of adequate medical care and psychiatric services, contributes to the deplorable conditions. Individuals with severe mental illnesses, branded as “non-criminal lunatics,” are often imprisoned. With many mentally vulnerable prisoners left to suffer without support in a brutal environment, there is a high rate of suicides of prison inmates and police detainees.


Media Reports: Conference on Prisoners’ Rights at Allahabad

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Conference on Prisoners’ Rights

Human Rights Law Network organized a National level conference on Prisoners’ Rights and uses of Criminal Law, on 21st September at Swaraj Vidyapeeth.  Lawyers and Human Rights’ activists from 25 different states took part in the conference. Prisoners’ Rights and atrocities committed against them while in custody were pondered upon in the conference. Chief Guest of the conference, Mr. Achal Bihari Srivastava, ex Chief Justice of the High Court, pointed out that in situations like this the responsibility of the judges’ increase, but they must come forward and take decisions on such sensitive issues. He further stated that it is understandable that the judges face extremely heavy workload, but they must try to fit in jail visits into their busy schedules in order to ensure smooth operation of the jails. 

Vice Chairman of PUCL, Seema Azad, conducted a detailed discussion on rights of female prisoners and Dalit prisoners. Senior Advocate Vishnu Shukla came in from Kanpur to express his views on the condition of the health facilities available to the prisoners. Senior reporter Suresh Gandhi shared with the participants his tryst with harassment and torture at the hands of police personnel. Further on in the conference, Senior Advocate K.K. Rai pledged to continue the fight for Prisoners’ Rights. Lenin, Zaheer Ahmed Falaahi, Farman Naqvi, Satyendra Singh, Rajanikanth Rai, K.C. Shukla, Saswati, Rudra Prasad Mishra, Randhir Singh, Suman, Shams Vikas, Ramesh Kumar, Shiv Kumar Mishra, V.K. Roy, Gauhar Ajit, Dharmendra Singh, Deeksha Dwivedi, Amiy Shukla, Rakesh Singh, Himanshu Singh, Arindam were few of the participants.


National Consultation on Prison Legal Aid, 13th & 14th April, 2013, New Delhi

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AREAS OF INTERVENTION:All the problems relating to the prisoners in all the states, because of the black laws of the states, and the solutions, through law and PIL were discussed in the session held on 13th and 14th of April, 2012.

Day 1, 13th May 2013

Brief:The meeting was started by Mr. K.K. Roy and Mr. Colin in light of Bhullar’s Case where an innocent Professor of Engineering was charged of being a terrorist and was awarded death penalty without proper evidences and witnesses.

The Main aim of the meeting was to teach the Lawyers and Activists how to use legal system for prisoners and focus was on the legal system. There are many social activists who are helping HRLN in this legal aid campaign.  The agenda was to build network of the activists who can help to provide legal aid to the prisoners on the national platform.

Mr. Nihal suggested that we should train the Social Activists to file PIL on relevant issues so as to improve the working of the prison society of India.

Kamalnath Pandey asked the activists to focus on the states of Jharkhand and Odisha. Where Kirti Roy questioned that how can we change the condition of anything by PIL when the ministers themselves say these days that the system is rotten, and in case of conflict prisoners should be granted bail on surety bonds but even then the faults continue to prevail.


Meeting with Lawyers in Bihar for the Legal Aid System, 20th to 25th September, 2012

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Objective:The prime objective of the meetings was to improve the condition of Prisons in Bihar and invigorate the system of Legal Aid in the state of Bihar.Meetings were organized in a six day span, each at different district, namely, Patna, Jehanabad, Gaya, Buxar, Muzaffarpur and Bhagalpur.The meetings were organized to identify the lawyers from various districts of Bihar who would be instrumental in providing pro-bono legal aid services to the poor prisoners in their respective districts. This meeting would explain the interested lawyers the course of action to be followed to further the legal aid work in the different districts of Bihar.

The Human Rights Law Network team, which aims to set up new legal aid centers in different districts of Bihar, through this meeting HRLN team met the lawyers from districts during the 6 days visit of Bihar and met over 120 district lawyers.

BRIEF: The span of the whole trip spanned six days and ranged into many consultations at various levels. The underlying realization emerging from all the consultations was that the legal aid system needed a desperate overhaul to satisfy the objectives it was made for.

The overarching focus of all the discussions was on the problems which have plagued the Legal Aid system of Bihar. The participants had detailed discussions on the problems specific to the Legal Aid System in Bihar. The lawyers from different districts almost unanimously concluded that the Legal aid system was inoperative in their respective districts. The participants then brooded upon the solutions to correct the system. The participants came out with novel and interesting solution to address the current problems.


Lawyers Training in Bihar for Criminal Justice System and Legal Aid, 8th -10th March, 2013, Patna, Muzaffarpur, Jehanabad (Bihar)

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Area of intervention:The Human Rights Law Network team, with an aim to build a network of lawyers and social activists in Bihar visited three district of Bihar and held meetings with lawyers and social activists from more than 5 districts from 8th to 10th March, 2013. According to stats only 20% of the inmates are convicts and rest are under trails, owing to which jails are booming with inmates and overcrowding, dormant state/district legal service authorities and the pity condition in the jails has added to the misery. Hence the three meetings were held to encourage lawyers to promote pro-bono legal aid for the poor people. The meeting explained the interested lawyers the course of action to be followed to further the legal aid work in the different districts of Bihar. Further, two issues were identified for filing PILs, to reform prison system and the system of legal aid in the state, one on the payment of wages to inmates, and the other on the facilities provided to the prisoners.


Ms. Saswati Debnath, HRLN, Delhi opened the session by sharing the main agenda of the meeting. The main purpose of the meeting was to collaborate with the lawyers of Patna who are willing to work for Pro Bono Publico by providing legal aid services to the poor and needy. It was suggested to the lawyers to take initiative to visit jails and meet prisoners, address the issues faced by prisoners, filing bail applications for prisoners and under trials. Lawyers can also apply for jail passes, and visit jails regularly to get details of cases and distribute cases amongst network.

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Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) is a division of the Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC). SLIC is a non-profit legal aid and educational organization, registered under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860, Indian Public Trust Act, 1950 and the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, 1976.

HRLN is a division of the Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC). SLIC is a non-profit legal aid and educational organization, registered under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860, Indian Public Trust Act, 1950 and the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, 1976.