Directing the District Magistrates of the various provinces to visit unexpectedly in the prisons under their jurisdiction and submit a report to the Court, inter alia, on the conditions of the prisons, the Orissa High Court
last week sought answers from the State Government several times in an attempt to understand the current status and status of the Prions in Government.
Bench of Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice B. P. Routray were facing a 15-year-old petition and a 7-year-old PIL after receiving a recent report by Amicus Curiae on the matter. Both applications have highlighted various issues with regard to Orissa prisons.
Among other things, the Amicus Curiae informed the Court of five issues regarding the deaths of Odisha prisoners over the past five years and the issue of overcrowding.
Court References to State Government
Initially, the Court ordered the Government of Odisha to review detailed evidence issued by the Supreme Court in its judgment In Re: Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons, (2016) 3 SCC 700 and subsequent decision. It may be noted that in the above-mentioned case, the Supreme Court had recognized the need to give priority to prisoners' rights and services in various prisons throughout the country. Learn more about the guidelines issued by Apex Court here and there. In addition, the Odisha Government has been instructed to present before the Court, the following day, in the form of a two-column list, the directions issued by the Supreme Court and the State Government's response thereto.
"It is very important that the above High Court guidelines are made in writing and in spirit to improve the conditions of the Orissa prison and this needs to be done in a timely manner," the Court said.
The State Government was also instructed to inform the Court the next day and the times when it would apply the directions Imprisonment of prisoners in prison
Note that in the case of Premshankar Shukla v. Delhi Administration AIR 1980 SC 1535, the Apex Court had banned the practice of detaining prisoners or while they were being taken to prison, the Court ordered the State Government to include orders issued in respect of cessation of practice anywhere in Government. Release of prison inmates and underground inmates involved in consolidated cases The Court ordered the Member of the Odisha State Legal Services Authority (OSLSA) to collect information on the number of prisoners in various Odisha prisons, who could not be released, despite being granted bail, for failing to provide bail bonds. For that reason, the Member Secretary, OSLSA has been instructed to encourage their release by having the panel's lawyers file additional applications before the Court which has granted such bail to change conditions in accordance with the Supreme Court's decision on the matter. Notably, with regard to the role of OSLSA, the Court stated,
"The Court would like to emphasize that without the active participation of OSLSA and OHCLSC many of the changes proposed in the above decisions of the High Court may not be effective." Finally, the Court has issued the following guidelines, generally (incomplete list): -
• Between 15 March 2021 and 16 April 2021, DMs in various districts will make sudden visits to the prisons under their jurisdiction, in collaboration with the Secretary of the Regional Legal Services Authority (DLSA) or the Taluk Legal Services Committee (TLSC) as may be possible. • Submit a joint report to the Court on the conditions of the prison, the condition of the prisoners, matters of overcrowding, the state of facilities within the prisons including the provision of food and accommodation, recreation etc. Preferably, the visit should not be announced. • The State Government will also arrange for at least one medical examination of each district and small prisons in Odisha province by a team of medical personnel at the above time and reports of such travel will also be presented to the Court the next day. • Compilation of reports of visits by District Judges for the months of January, February, and March 2021 will be presented to the Court the next day by the Registrar General of this Court. The matter is set to be heard on 27 April 2021.