Court seeks details of undertrials in Tihar jail


New Delhi : The Delhi High Court Monday asked Tihar Jail authorities to submit a list of inmates facing trial for crimes inviting a maximum punishment of seven years. The move is aimed at decongesting Asia's largest jail that saw six deaths in a week last month.

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A division bench of Justices R.S. Sodhi and H.R. Malhotra gave three weeks time to the jail authorities to compile and submit the data before the court. The next hearing will be on July 25.

The court is contemplating to relax the bail bonds conditions so that the undertrials languishing in jails for several years could be released.

However, it cautioned that habitual offenders should be kept out of the list so that no leniency was shown to them.

Subordinate Judge Kamini Lau, who had submitted a probe report before the court, has suggested that more undertrials, who are not involved in heinous crimes, should be freed on bail.

Against a capacity of 6,000, Tihar jail here is housing about 13,000 inmates and about 80 percent of them are undertrials. The figure is next only to the Bihar jails, where the percentage of undertrials is 82 percent, said the report.

On June 22, the court had asked police to state the reasons for sending 31 more people to the Tihar Jail, nabbed for minor offences, despite the knowing that inmates were dying due to summer heat.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Gopal Subramaniam appearing for Delhi Police submitted that police sent 31 people charged for breach of peace to the jail on June 21 as an earlier court order was not communicated to police.

In the second week of June the court had directed Tihar authorities to release 600 inmates, who were arrested for minor offences of breach of peace and not able to provide personal surety for bail.

The court had said, "All 600 inmates in Tihar Central jail booked under Section 107 (security for keeping the peace) read with Section 151 (arrest to prevent commission of cognisable offence) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) due to non-furnishing of surety would be released on furnishing personal bond of Rs.2,000."

It directed the district judge to complete the hearing of such cases in six months.

Shalek Chand Jain, a social worker, in a public suit alleged that in this largest jail in Asia deaths have become a routine matter.

"Police atrocities is an open secret to the public and the innocent people are nabbed under Sections 107 and 151 of the CrPC on false charges of causing breach of peace and sent to jail even though the offence is bailable. The people are kept in judicial custody as police do not want to relent," alleged the petition.

While seeking direction to the authorities to improve the conditions in the jails, the petitioner also sought a judicial inquiry to unravel the causes of the deaths of so many innocent people during summer.