Supreme Court: Considering the dire need for prison reform, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and R.K. Agrawal, JJ said that prisoners, like all other human beings, deserve to be treated with dignity. Taking note of the fact that the prisons suffer from a wide range of problems like overcrowding, delay in trial, custodial deaths, inadequacy of staff, Insubstantial food and inadequate clothing, etc, the Court said that despite of the various discussions and decisions by this Court regarding this issue over the last 35 years, we are still struggling with resolution of this problem.
Hence, the Court issued the below mentioned directions in order to tackle the situation:
- The Under Trial Review Committee, which has been set up in various States, should meet quarterly and the first meeting should be held before 31st March, 2016.
- Aspects pertaining to effective implementation of Section 436 of the Cr.P.C. and Section 436A of the Cr.P.C. and those who cannot furnish bail bonds due to their poverty are not subjected to incarceration only for that reason should be considered.
- Adequate number of competent lawyers should be empanelled to assist undertrial prisoners and convicts, particularly the poor and indigent.
- Issue of the release of undertrial prisoners in compoundable offences, should be looked into, the effort being to effectively explore the possibility of compounding offences rather than requiring a trial to take place.
- Proper and effective utilization of available funds so that the living conditions of the prisoners is commensurate with human dignity.
- Ministry of Home Affairs will ensure that the Management Information System is in place at the earliest in all the Central and District Jails as well as jails for women so that there is better and effective management of the prison and prisoners.
- Annual review of the implementation of the Model Prison Manual 2016 should be conducted by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Court also issued a notice to the Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India in order to ensure that a manual similar to the Model Prison Manual is prepared in respect of juveniles who are in custody either in Observation Homes or Special Homes or Places of Safety in terms of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. [Re – Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 121 decided on 05.02.2016]