Release undertrials in petty cases, Delhi government urges HC

New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) The AAP government on Thursday asked the Delhi High Court to order the release of undertrial prisoners not involved in heinous crimes but languishing in Tihar jail for over six months due to tardy disposal of cases.

Advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the state government’s prisons department, told a division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath that the Tihar jail complex was “overcrowded” and undertrials involved in petty crimes must be released on bail immediately.

Mehra said Tihar inmates involved in heinous crimes like murder, rape and dowry death etc. may not be granted such relief.

The court on Wednesday took suo motu cognizance of a letter sent by Justice Kurian Joseph of the Supreme Court regarding the deplorable condition of 612 women inmates lodged in Tihar jail.

Justice Kurian Joseph wrote to the high court chief justice after he received appeals from the women prisoners lodged in jail number six about their sufferings and grievances.

Mehra told the high court that at present there were around 14,000 prisoners in Tihar though its capacity was only around 6,500.

He added that in jail number six, 612 women prisoners were lodged as against its capacity of 400 inmates.

Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) member secretary Dharmesh Sharma told the court that its legal service clinics were running in each jail in the Tihar complex. Women legal aid lawyers and senior officials made periodic visits to the jail, Sharma added.

After hearing the submissions of Sharma and Mehra, the high court said that the matter required to be monitored by the court. The bench sought by July 14 a report from the DLSA, indicating steps taken on the issue.

The women prisoners, who are serving their sentence or are facing trial, said children aged more than six cannot be kept in jail with their mothers. They said they were also denied bail and could not meet their children outside.

The women requested that undertrials be released on personal bonds. They also alleged lack of sympathy from the courts and doctors in the jail.

The inmates contended that legal aid available in the jail for female prisoners was not serving its true purpose.

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