Chennai, Mar 18: The Madras High Court was today informed that at present 21 children, aged up to six years, of women prisoners are in prison homes and jail authorities have been instructed not to treat them as convicts or under-trials.
A submission to this effect was made by Additional Director General of Police (Prisons) in his counter-affidavit before the First Bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M M Sundresh, which had suo motu taken up as PIL reports on condition of children in jails.
The court had asked the government to take suitable measures to protect the interests of these children, besides ensuring the rights of mentally challenged undertrials. The court today nominated advocate Suresh as amicus curiae to assist the court in handling the matter.
The counter said the prisons, which have a capacity to accommodate 2,441 women prisoners, are lodged with only 627 women prisoners and 21 children.
As per Rule 963 of the Tamil Nadu Prison Rules, 1983, children up to six years of age are admitted in prison with their mothers, if they cannot be placed with their relatives or otherwise properly cared for.
Children born in prison also remain with their mothers till they turn six. But once they are six years old, children can no longer remain in prison. Arrangements are then made to place them with relatives or approved children's homes. Such children who stay outside jails are allowed to meet their mothers once a week.
Reiterating that such mothers and children are not treated as undertrials or convicts, the ADGP said, "Prisoners and their children are not locked in all the time. They are allowed to move freely except during lock-up hours. There is a crèche and nursery attached to the special prisons for women to look after the children."
Children in jail are given food, shelter, medical care, clothing and recreational facilities as laid down in prison rules, the counter said. Pregnant women prisoners are provided with medical assistance before and after child birth as per rules, it said.