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Bombay HC orders survey for inmates inputs on prison reforms

In a bid to reform the condition of prisons across the state and especially to secure the rights of women prisoners, the Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra Legal Services Authority (MLSA) to conduct a survey for suggestions from jail inmates in the matter.

A special bench of Justices Mridula Bhatkar and Revati Mohite-Dere, constituted by the High Court to look solely into implementing prison reforms across the state, passed the order last week.

The directions, in compliance with a previous order of the High Court, came after the state government informed the bench that it has drawn up a set of questionnaire for the inmates on the condition in jails, facilities available to undertrial as well as convicted prisoners and access granted to them to meet their minor children, among others.

The bench has now directed the MLSA to send 20 such forms to all prisons across the state. It suggested that district- level prison authorities get some undertrial and convicted women prisoners in each jail fill up the forms.

The bench also suggested that district-level prison authorities take the help of final year law students for the task.

“Send 10 forms for undertrial female prisoners and 10 for female convicts. Forms filled up by the inmates and the undertrial prisoners will be considered as confidential information,” the bench said.

“The district legal authority shall take the assistance of fifth year law students from different colleges of the said districts. This exercise shall be completed by October 31, 2017,” the bench said.

Once the survey is complete, MLSA would compile the responses and file a report before the High Court, the bench said and also directed the MLSA to ensure that the responses be kept confidential and that the prison authorities concerned have no access to inmates replies.

In September this year, during the first hearing since it was constituted, the bench had directed the Maharashtra government to take a decision on making better arrangements in prisons for women inmates.

It had particularly directed the state to ensure that children staying in jails with their mothers who are either undertrials or are serving a sentence are taken care of. Also, women prisoners whose children stay away from them be granted permission to meet them regularly.

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