SC: Re - Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons
Re-Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons vs. State of Assam and Ors. WP(C) 406 / 2013
In this case, the Supreme Court took up a suo motu case based on a letter written by the former Chief Justice of India, Justice lahoti to the then Chief Justice of India in 2013. In his letter, Justice Lahoti pointed out four major issues plaguing the indian jails – overcrowding, custodial deaths, lack of staff, and lack of training of prison personnel.
Intervention Applications were filed on behalf of the National Forum for Prison Reforms on the issue of custodial deaths in prisons. Considering the issues raised by the National Forum and based on the submissions of the Amicus, the Supreme Court had inter alia directed all High Courts to institute suo motu PILs and take cognizance of all unnatural deaths which have taken place from 2012 onwards and award suitable compensation; to make efforts to reduce and possibly eliminate unnatural deaths in prisons and to document each and every death in prison – both natural and unnatural; SLSAs to conduct a study as well as a performance audit of the prisons; State Governments to study the availability of medical facilities for prisoners, to appoint counselors; and to constitute an appropriate Board of Visitors.
Besides, the intervenors assisted the Supreme Court while considering the issue of improving the legal aid facilities, especially for undertrial prisoners and ensuring release of undertrials to reduce overcrowding. To this end, Undertrial Review Committees (UTRC), were constituted in each district to review the cases of undertrials who can be released. The UTRCs were meant to help those people who are not able to be released due to a systemic failure of the prison system. 14 categories of prisoners were identified to be considered by the UTRCs which included first time and petty offenders, women, sick, and disabled prisoners, as well as those who have completed half of their maximum sentence, but whose trials are still pending, among others.
The intervenors also assisted the court on the issue of open prisons. The compendium of the main orders and judgements in the case, as well as a copy of the orders and judgements are attached as follows:
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