SC directs Centre, states, UTs to consider plight of undertrials

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New Delhi, Oct 24 (UNI) The Supreme Court, considering the plight of about 375 undertrials languishing in jails without trial for a long time, today directed that those prisoners who have already served more than the maximum sentence prescribed for their offences shall be immediately released by the courts concerned, subject to their mental condition or health.

A bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices R V Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari also directed the Centre, all the States and Union Territories to consider the release on bail of those prisoners involved in grievous offences but have been in jail for more than five years.

The apex court also directed that other prisoners shall be monitored periodically, that is, after every three months, to look after their health and also to ensure that their trials are started subject to their mental health.

Today's directions came on the two cases-- one of which was based on a UNI report, in which letters were read as writ petition by the apex court.

The first case, based on the UNI report, was related to one Jagjivan Ram Yadav, in which the undertrial was found languishing in Faizadad jail for over 38 years. The UNI report was carried by various papers on February 6, 2006.

In another case, one Machal Lalung from Assam who had been in jail from 1951 without trial and whose release on bail was ordered by this Court in 2005, that is, after over 54 years of illegal detention.

In both the cases, the victims had lost their balance of mind and were langiushing in mental asylums. Even their case records were not traceable. They had also forgotten their villages, their family members, relatives and friends. Both the unfortunate victims of negligence of administration were arrested when they were young and came out of jail as old, mental and emotional wrecks. Even their family members could not recognise them.

The apex court awarded Rs 3 lakhs as compensation to Lalung, who was above 70 years when he got his freedom without knowing where to go.

Yadav, who was released from Faizabad jail, was not even recognised by his own son.

The apex court adjourned the matter for two months.

There are in all 375 such underteials in the country as per the report submitted by the amicus curiae.

Kerala tops the list with 57 undertrial prisoners languishing in its jail, without trial. Madhya Pradesh has 51 such victims of administrative negligence, followed by Uttar Pradesh with 38 and Delhi with four.

Interestingly Bihar has nil, while West Bengal has 49 such victims of callousness of the admiistration and the society.

UNI

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