IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 2nd Nov 2020
“Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama
EDITORIAL HUNT #219 :“Pandemic and the Prisons in India | UPSC”
SRUJANA | NIKITA | AMEYA
Pandemic and the Prisons in India | UPSC
The writers are associated with the Bhopal-based Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project
An epidemic of over-arrest
Push for repopulation of prisons during a pandemic is reckless.
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : Prison Reforms
Why are agents of the criminal justice system not taking responsibility for prison populations and their burgeoning rise? Critically examine the prisons population in the pandemic -(GS 2)
- A Case of Delhi
- Prisons in India
- Other Issues
- Way Forward
- A HIGH COURT VERDICT : Last month, the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, refused to extend the court’s blanket orders granting interim bail to inmates.
- DECONGESTION IN ACTION : Delhi’s high-powered committee (HPC) for the decongestion of prisons directed 30-day extension on release will be given to 3,337 undertrials and 1,182 convicts.
- BACK TO PRISON : The prisoners after which must return to prisons from early December.
- ANXIOUS PRISON AUTHORITIES : Global health experts have not yet signalled an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, and, hence, the belief that inmates can safely return to prisons is entirely misplaced.
PRISONS IN INDIA
- OVERCROWDING : Total population of Delhi Prison is likely to reach 22,000 after inmates return , which would be unprecedented and may become unmanageable.
- OTHER STATES : Prison departments in other states have also made similar appeals to the respective governments.
- EXTRAORDINARY INFLUX : In the last seven months, somehow unbeknownst to the judiciary, prisons have seen an extraordinary influx of new inmates: almost all of them undertrials.
- BIGGEST HOUSE : Uttar Pradesh, housing 21.1 per cent of the country’s prison population, released 9,000 inmates due to the pandemic.
- INCREASED CASES : We studied arrests made in MP during the first three phases of the lockdown, when the overall number of cases registered and arrests increased.
- UNUSUAL ARRESTS : Besides a high number of lockdown-related arrests (14.8 per cent), MP saw higher than usual number of arrests under its Excise Act (15.8 per cent) and the Public Gambling Act (12.2 per cent).
- RESTORING ORDER : The state had to “restore order” by pursuing low-level, low-harm, victimless offences such as alcohol possession and public gambling against low-income, marginalised communities.
- ACCESS TO BAILS : Access to bail was significantly impaired for arrested persons due to reduced court capacities. Regular bail hearings were delayed by weeks.
- NEW SYSTEM IN THE COURT : The adoption of a virtual court system also aggravated judicial delays.
- RATIONALITY OF JUSTICE SYSTEM : The pandemic and the consequent plight of inmates have revealed the convoluted logic and structure of our criminal justice system.
- LACK OF INTEREST : The police’s priorities lie in exercising their powers of arrest to full extent, irrespective of social context, while some courts are unconcerned with overcrowding in jails.
WOMEN IN THE PRISON
- INHUMANE TREATMENT : For women, prisons are built with stones of “patriarchal” law. Pregnancies and custodial childbirths as making for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of women.
- FAILURE OF STATE MACHINERY : The NCW has not only failed to ensure that pregnant and lactating mothers are rescued , but it has also not stopped new arrests and remand during the pandemic.
- CUSTODIAL MINORITIES : All women in prisons without distinction of charge, crime or sentence, whether pregnant, lactating, menstruating or menopausal, differently abled or ailing may be thought of as “custodial” minorities.
Source: These figures, which change every day, have been collated from the e-prisons dashboard.
- ONE SIZE FITS ALL : Our courts tend to forget that prisons are male spaces where women are fitted in and many women prisons have reported stories of indignity, decay and torture.
- PRISON WALLS : Justice Krishna Iyer famously said that ‘prisons are built with the stones of law’. However, for women, prisons are built with stones of ‘patriarchal’ law.
- ALARMING SITUATION : United States of America and Canada ; The spread of virus in jail has been like wildfire.
- RETHINK AND REACT : It is time to re-think the prison system as it exists from the point of view of gender and sexual minorities.
- SKYPE CALLS CAN HELP : It is said that there was a riot in the West Bengal jail because the prisoners were banned from meeting their family members.
“The judges are not applying their minds when they are rejecting the bail. Bail is the rule and jail is the exception”- Justice Srikrishna.
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | Pandemic and the Prisons in India | UPSC