BANGALORE: Nearly 70 per cent of undertrial prisoners at Bangalore Central Jail are deprived of their right to speedy trial guaranteed under the Constitution.
Due to shortage of police escorts, they are not produced before courts on time. Many undertrials who require medical attention are not even taken to hospitals.
“Every day, around 300 to 400 police personnel are required to escort prisoners to various courts, but Prisons Department gets around 80-100 policemen. Around 30 per cent of undertrials are produced before courts,” sources in the department told Express.
Of the 4,400 prisoners at the jail in Parappana Agrahara, 3,200 are undertrials. A day before the court hearing, prisons staff sends a list of undertrials and courts where they have to be produced to City Armed Reserve (CAR). Depending on availability of its staff or other exigences, the CAR personnel are sent for escort duties.
“Lack of coordination between prison officials and the Police Department, often worsened by lack of resources and political will, is resulting in undertrials not being produced before court for a long time, violating their right to a speedy trial,” said Divya Iyer, Research Manager at Amnesty International India, who is researching on the prison system in Karnataka.
“Immediate attention needs to be given towards creating a pool of independent escorts for prisoners for production in court. The government must also constitute a Board of Visitors to ensure thorough and periodic monitoring of the conditions and detention periods of all detainees. Further, judicial supervision of the undertrial population through regular jail visits of district magistrates as ex-officio visitors should be implemented,” she added.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Prisons, Vishwanathaiah, said the situation is now improving. “On an average, daily 30-35 per cent of undertrials are being produced before the courts while it used to be around 10 to 20 per cent just a few months back,” he told Express. “The situation is improving,” he said.
Former DG&IGP S T Ramesh said acute shortage of manpower in the Police Department and deploying CAR personnel for various duties like VVIP security, examination, elections, rallies, and a variety of other works are the reasons for shortage of escort staff.
“Having dedicated escort personnel, making full use of technology in the form of videoconferencing, and having courts inside or close to prison can help address the issue,” Ramesh, who had introduced videoconferencing facility in the jail as a head of the Prisons Department in 2006, said.
Senior officers in the Prisons Department agree that videoconferencing is one of the options to ensure that the undertrials are produced before the courts on time. “As of now 17 courts have videoconferencing facility and it is working well. A proposal to provide the facility in another 32 courts is before the government,” Vishwanathaiah said.
Divya Iyer, however, said the facility is not being put to use fully. “Not a single video conference hearing has been conducted from February to June (2014),” she added.