CHENNAI: Nearly 3,000 persons who were detained as undertrials saw the light of the day after judges who held Prison Adalats across the State ordered their release. The move came two days after the Supreme Court directed authorities to release all those languishing as undertrials even after spending half of their maximum possible sentence.
The adalats were held at all the eight Central Prisons, nine district jails, 89 sub-jails for men and 11 for women, and 11 Borstal Schools in the State, where hundreds of undertrials presented their case before magistrates. The cases that could be tried at a magistrate court were taken up at the adalats. According to legal experts who have been working for prisoners’ rights, the adalats were scheduled much before the apex court directive came, but added that the SC’s attention on the matter has given a fresh focus to these efforts.
In Chennai, 831 prisoners were released from the Puzhal Central Prison, and the district and sub-jails in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur — each Central Prison controls the lower jails in the districts under its jurisdiction. Of this, 338 were from the Central jail, which included 290 remand prisoners, 25 women, eight convicted prisoners and 15 from the Borstal schools.
The adalat at Puzhal prison was chaired by 50 magistrates under Adi Nathan, Principal Sessions Judge, Chennai; Jafarullah Khan, Principal Sessions Judge, Tiruvallur; and Rajamanickam, Principal Sessions Judge, Kancheepuram-Chengalpet. Similarly, 174 prisoners were released from the Palayamkottai Central Prison in Tirunelveli; 53 from Madurai Central Prison; 48 from Tiruchy Central Prison; and 39 from Vellore Central Prison, apart from scores from the district and sub-jails.
“Prison Adalats have been functioning successfully in Tamil Nadu since 2000. The Supreme Court’s directive on undertrials has given an impetus to the efforts to secure the basic rights of prisoners,” said lawyer V Kannadasan, ex-special public prosecutor for human rights cases, Madras HC.
However, he said majority of those lodged in the prisons are remand prisoners, including those against whom chargesheets are yet to be filed. Of 845 cases taken for enquiry from the Puzhal remand prison, magistrates could dispose of only 290 as chargesheets were not filed in the rest.