The high court on Thursday stressed the "need for better management to prevent overcrowding in jails of Jammu and Kashmir, saying the jails are not only for punishment but for reform as well.
A division bench of chief justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and justice Ali Muhammad Magrey made the observations after perusing government's report attesting "number of convicts, under-trials, acquittals, woman and children lodged in the jails, besides inmates booked under Public Safety Act."
Amicus curiae, G R Tantray informed the court that some prisoners have developed mental depression because of overcrowding and for want of basic facilities in the jails.
"The condition of jails will automatically reflect the condition of jail inmates and under trials. There is a need of better management of jails to prevent overcrowding," the bench observed and said that jails are not only for punishment but act as places of reform. "This can be done when condition of jails will improve".
In yet another direction, the court asked the amicus curie to examine the report filed by senior additional advocate general, B A Dar, and submit his comments.
The court also permitted the amicus curie to visit various prisons and file report after their inspection. It also directed director general prisons to facilitate the visit by the amicus.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation petition related the nine points "that the SC has referred to it about the jail inmates of the state."
The points relate to overcrowding in jails, delay in trial, torture and ill-treatment, neglect of health and hygiene, sub-standard food and inadequate clothing, prison vices, no communication, streamlining of jail visits and management of open air prisons.
In a landmark ruling, the apex court on September 5, 2014 had ordered the release of all under-trial prisoners who have already served half the term of their sentence except for those whose offence attract death penalty.
In 2014, the high court had mobilised judicial officers across the state to visit every prison in their district to identify and release under-trials in consonance with the directions by the apex court.
In keeping with the directions of a three-judge bench led by then chief justice of India R M Lodha, sessions judges, chief judicial magistrates and magistrates were to start jail visits from October 1, 2014 to identify and release under-trials.
The reports in this regard were to be filed to the respective state high courts, which were to be passed on to the apex court.
Pursuant to directions, J&K high court registrar general had issued a circular on 12 November 2014, asking all the jurisdictional magistrates, CJMs and the session judges to hold one sitting in a week in each jail or prison to identify cases of those under-trial prisoners who have completed half of the maximum period of imprisonment provided for the offence under law for which the prisoner has been jailed.
The judicial officers, as per the circular, have been asked to pass appropriate orders in the jail for release of such under-trial prisoners after complying with the procedure prescribed under section 436A of the CrPc.
As per this section, the under-trial prisoners, who suffered detention during the period of investigation, inquiry or trial for one-half of their maximum imprisonment, should be released by the court on personal bond with or without sureties.