The Bombay High Court has taken cognisance of the issue of rights of undertrial prisoners, especially females and their children, and also mentally- challenged convicts and undertrials on the basis of a Supreme Court order.
Justices P V Hardas and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi appointed counsel Ashok Mundargi as ‘Amicus Curiae’ (friend of court) to assist in this matter.
The judges took cognisance of the issue on a Supreme Court order of December 2014 which had asked high courts in 24 states in the country to examine the “rights of prisoners especially females and children with them.”
The SC order said “while examining the issue touching the rights of undertrial prisoners, especially the females and the children with them, the HCs may also examine the question relating to rights of mentally-challenged under-trials and convicts and issue appropriate directions.”
Advocate R D Upadhyay had filed a Special Leave Petition in the SC highlighting the plight of undertrial prisoners languishing in jails without trial since long.
The SC full bench had said “the High Courts may, while examining the rights of such unfortunate members of society who suffer from any mental disability, also examine whether any directions are required to be issued in relation to people who suffer from such illness but are not involved in any crime and yet suffer harassment, neglect or deprivation at the hands of their family or are seen roaming about in public places without anyone taking responsibility for their care, protection or maintenance.”
Taking a sympathetic view of the children who had to remain behind the bars with their mothers facing trial, the SC had said that special care needs to be taken of such children.
The SC said that continuous monitoring was required to ensure effective implementation of its (SC’s) directions which is to “ensure that under-trial prisoners languishing in jails do not suffer in sub-human conditions and are provided the basic amenities admissible to such persons especially the children of such prisoners who because of their tender age are at times forced to stay with their respective mothers till the trial concludes or the sentence is undergone.