Sixteen high courts across the country have initiated petitions on their own to deal with the issue of custodial deaths in jails, the Supreme Court has been informed.
The apex court had on September 15 asked all high courts to register a petition on their own (suo motu) to identify the kin of prisoners who admittedly died an unnatural death after 2012 and award suitable compensation to them, unless adequate compensation has already been awarded.
A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta was apprised by the apex court registry that eight high courts, including high courts of Calcutta, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madras, have not given any intimation whether action has been taken with regard to custodial deaths.
“The registry has reported that 16 high courts have initiated suo motu public interest litigation with regard to custodial deaths in prisons. The report of the registry is that eight high courts have not given any intimation whether any action has been taken with regard to custodial deaths,” the bench noted in its order.
The apex court, while hearing a case relating to inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country, asked its secretary general to communicate with the registrar general of these eight high courts to look into the matter of custodial deaths at the earliest.
The top court had on September 15 observed that custodial death was a crime and such incidents indicate the “apparent disdain” of the state to the life and liberty of prisoners.
It had also passed a slew of directions over unnatural deaths and on prison reforms across India.
It had earlier expressed shock at a large number of people languishing in jails in “complete violation” of their rights despite recommendations for their release by legal services authority and termed the situation as unacceptable.