Under Trial Prisoners Must be Provided with Their Release Related Information

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The Central Information Commission (CIC) in a recent decision Divya Iyer v. Tihar Jail  on 13th September 2015, while reiterating that it is the constitutional responsibility and statutory obligation of the Governments to review each case of under-trial prisoner and take appropriate action including release of the prisoner and inform the prisoners concerned and the concerned authorities, CIC noted that the duty of the Governments also extends to inform the authorities, which will facilitate the release, or enable prisoner or any other person to demand release based on information made available. The Commission was hearing an appeal filed by an RTI activist who sought information regarding steps taken by the Home Department towards the implementation of the Central Directive No. V13013/70/2012IS (VI) dated 17.01.2013 issued by Government of India Ministry of Home Affairs to the Home Secretaries to all States. The Home Ministry, vide the said directive requested the State Governments and Union Territories to adopt various measures to reduce overcrowding of prisons. The authorities were also directed to constitute an Under-trial Review Committee (URC) to decide on release of under-trial inmates. As the appellant was not satisfied by the response provided by the Central Jails of Tihar and District Jail of Rohini, she approached the Commission. During the proceedings, Commission referred to the amended provision of S. 436-A, CrPC and observed that under-trial prisoners can be detained only for one-half of the maximum period of imprisonment prescribed for the alleged crime for which they have been charged. This does not prevail upon offences for which the punishment of death has been specified as one of the punishments.

The Commission also referred to several decisions of Supreme Court and CIC and noted that it is necessary and appropriate for the Under-Trial Review Committee to issue necessary instructions to provide the release related information to the concerned from time to time for effective implementation of Section 436A and directions of the Supreme Court. The Commission further observed that even a single day delay in release of under-trial prisoners, who are entitled to such release as per Section 436-A, will amount to serious violation of their right to life under Article 21 of Constitution. For this violation no amount of compensation would be sufficient. Hence, there is a strong need to prevent breach of Article 21 by implementing Section 436-A. Accordingly, the Commission directed the authorities of Tihar Jail and Rohini Jail, to provide:

  1. a) Latest status on the implementation of the Central directive dated 17.01.2013, and
  2. b) Proposed list of prisoners to be released and other possible consequences like review committee meetings, etc within 20 days from the date of receipt of this order to the appellant, which shall also be disclosed under Section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act in their official website.

The Commission also directed the Home Department to issue directives to all Jail authorities to prepare the list of under-trial prisoners supposed to be released from time to time at least for every quarter, informing the fact of their release. “Any such release of under-trial prisoner cannot be delayed,” added the Commission.

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