Orissa High Court orders formulation of scheme for children of prisoners

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Bench issues order after plea highlights various issues in Odisha jails.

The Orissa High Court has directed that a detailed scheme be formulated for children of prisoners.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice A. K. Mohapatra passed a comprehensive judgment taking into account overcrowding in Odisha jails and other factors.

The Bench was hearing a case filed by a convict lodged in District Jail, Balasore. In his petition, the convict highlighted various issues concerning the jails in Odisha. Subsequently, the court appointed Gautam Misra as amicus curiae to assist the court.

The court noted that there were around 59 children in jails in Odisha. It was informed about detailed schemes formulated both in Rajasthan and Maharashtra relating to the children in prisons as well prisoners’ children who may not be inside prisons themselves.

“During the hearing, both the Home Secretary as well as the Director General (Prisons) were open to suggestions for adopting the best elements of such schemes for children of prisoners in Odisha, which will include mandating a minimum stipend per child per month to meet the expenses connected with a decent standard of living and subsidising the entire expenses connected with the education of such children,” the order said.

“A detailed scheme concerning children of prisoners, whether within or outside prison, be formulated within a period of two months and placed before the court by the next date,” directed the Bench.

The next hearing will be on March 8.

In response to The Hindu’s article ‘46 children are behind bars in Odisha, for no crime of theirs’ published on May 20, 2018, the National Human Rights Commission directed all States to submit statistics showing how many children were kept with their mothers in the jails under their jurisdiction without facilities that were necessary for their psychological and physical growth as well as educational upbringing.

The High Court on Thursday directed the Odisha government to set up a high-level committee chaired by the Home Secretary within 10 days for implementation of its order. The court had considered the condition of sevens jails as a sample.

Of the 87 prisons in Odisha, 48 are overcrowded. As many as 14 had an occupancy rate up to 120%; 18 had between 121% and 150%, 10 had between 150% and 200%, 4 had between 200% and 299% and 2 prisons had more than 300%.

As against the all-India average of 69%, the percentage of Under Trial Prisoners in Odisha jails is 78%. About 95% of the prisoners were semi-literate or illiterate.

To ensure availability of legal assistance to a suspect or victim of crime, it is directed that the Odisha State Legal Services Authority (OSLSA) should, in consultation with the police in Odisha, put in place a ‘police station duty lawyer system’ at every police station in a district, the Bench directed.

“In order to make this system effective, a direction is issued to the police as well as the OSLSA to launch a pilot project of the duty lawyer system in four police stations in Odisha, preferably one in each of the four geographical regions, beginning February 1, 2022,” it said.



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