HC raps govt for failing to finalize upgraded jail manual for J&K
By: Rashid Paul
Srinagar: Given the “sub-human conditions” obtaining in prisons across Jammu and Kashmir and the administration clamouring since 2019 that the reformed Jail Manual was at the last stage of finalization, the J&K High Court Wednesday observed that nothing concrete has been brought on record to justify the official stance.
Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul observed “it appears that till date nothing has been brought on record regarding upgradation and finalization of the Jail Manual on behalf of the UT of J&K”.
The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking directions to safeguard rights of inmates, in keeping with the amended Jail Manual, lodged in jails of Jammu and Kashmir.
Notably, on April 19, 2019, the High Court was informed by the then Additional Advocate General that delay in the finalization of the Jail Manual was because of the preoccupation of the Department of Home with polling in the erstwhile state.
The formal meeting for finalizing the Manual, the state lawyer had said, could not be completed because of this reason.
He had however, assured the court that the finalization of the Jail Manual was nearly complete and that it would be placed before the court by May 14, 2019.
The revised Jail Manual was supposed to address the dilapidated prison structure, overcrowding and congestion, increasing proportion of under-trial prisoners, lack of proper care and treatment of prisoners in Jammu and Kashmir.
The division bench after pleadings by the state attorneys granted two months time for filing Draft Revised Jail Manual of J&K and Ladakh UTs.
The Assistant Solicitor General of India meanwhile told the court that his status report is already on record and that in the UT of Ladakh the Jail Manual is in the process of revision and finalization.
He prayed for and was allowed two months time to place the Draft Revised Jail Manual of Ladakh before the court.
Senior Additional Advocate General BA Dar appearing for the J&K submitted that the Jail Manual of the J&K has been revised and that it will be placed before the court on the next date of hearing.
The court on an earlier direction had asked the government counsel to file the latest status report regarding the Jail Manual within eight weeks failing which, it had directed the Principal Secretary Home Department to remain personally present on the next date of hearing of the case.
The court did observe the “piece-meal examination” of the matters relating to prisoners was really unfortunate.
The matter is an extremely serious one as it impacts the liberty of prisoners undergoing incarceration for several years in the prisons of UT of J&K.