On Page No. 1 & 10 on 7 Jan 2011
Experts Suggest Fast- Track Courts
Srinagar, Jan 6: In apparently a unique scenario of its kind, there are more under- trials than convicts in jails across Jammu and Kashmir.
Information sought under the Right to Information Act has led to revelations that the number of under- trials in the state jails is seven times more than the number of convicts.
The Prisons Department has furnished the information in response to two RTI applications filed by the RTI activists from Jammu, Ayaz Mughal and Balvinder Singh.
The info reflects that there are 2515 prisoners lodged in various state jails, with 1859 under- trials and just 269 convicts.
“ Of 1908 prisoners in nine jails in Jammu region, 1323 are under- trials. In Kashmir jails there are 507 under- trials out of 575 prisoners,” the info reveals, adding that the district jail Leh houses 29 under- trials including a female.
The RTI applicants had sought details on the number of prisoners, including under- trials and convicts, in jails across the state and the overall intake capacity in jails.
The Prisons Department mentions that there are 243 convicted prisoners in Jammu jails while 25 such cases in Kashmir prisons.
“ In addition to this, there are 324 prisoners, including 10 women, lodged under the Public Safety Act ( PSA),” the info reads. “ 78 female prisoners, including six convicts and 18 under- trials have been lodged in Jammu jails while 10 female prisoners, including eight under- trials and two PSA cases, are lodged in Kashmir jails.” The information says that barring few the prisons across the state are overcrowded.
The district Jail Jammu has intake capacity of 450 but houses 550 prisoners while the central jail in Srinagar has 300 intake capacity but houses 411 prisoners.
The Prisons Department has said that no juvenile has been lodged in the state jails as on 23.11.2010.
In response to relevant questions, the Department has said that there are no juvenile jails in state and there is no specific jail for keeping women prisoners. “ However separate barracks with the jail complex are existing in Srinagar Central Jail,” the info reveals.
Senior counsel Advocate Zaffar Shah believes there are multiple reasons behind the problem. “ First, it is the non- production of the accused before the court on the date of hearing. Second is the closure of the courts and protest of the lawyers. Third is the non- production of the witnesses by police before the court on the date of hearing.
Then we have the problem of non- prosecution of the accused on account of illness in the court,” he told Greater Kashmir . In addition to this, Zaffar Shah said, there are many cases pending in the courts, leading to “ denial of expeditious hearing.” “ We also have the issue of absence of the defence counsel or the prosecution council
on the date of hearing. Then, of course, the issue that legal procedures require to be followed by a court during the course of trial inherently resulting in delay of the proceedings,” he said.
Asked how the problem can be overcome, Shah said, it would require some changes to be made in the law itself. “ We can have some Fast Track and more criminal courts in the state,” he said. “ Then it requires production of the accused and the witnesses on the dates of hearing.”