SC slams Centre, states for ‘pathetic condition’ in jails

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday lashed out at the Centre and states over “pathetic condition” in the jails and observation homes for children across the country, saying that everything has been reduced to a “joke”.

“Please visit the jails and the observation homes for children to see the condition. Ask your officials to get out of their offices to see the condition in the jails. Taps are not working, toilets are not working. They are all blocked…they are in a pathetic condition. Ask them to have a look, then they will realise the pathetic condition they (prisoners) are living in,” said the bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta.

“You have converted whole thing into a joke,” Justice Lokur said taking umbrage to the “callous and insensitive approach” of the government machinery towards improving conditions in the jails and observation homes.

Taking a dig at the way the Centre and the state governments were addressing the issue of ameliorating conditions in the jails, Justice Lokur said: “That is why two judges of this court felt agitated because they saw what is happening.”

Justice Lokur was referring to the visit of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (since retired) and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit to jails and observations homes in Haryana that triggered judicial scrutiny of the conditions in jails and observation homes across the country.

The top court bench said this in the course of hearing on vacant positions in the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL).

Taking exception to a large number of vacancies in the CFSL, Justice Lokur said: “Our criminal justice system is not working, our jails are not working. The world over the average shortage of staff is 16 per cent but in India it is over 62 per cent.

“What kind of message we are sending out to the world” wondered Justice Lokur.

“Let the people (officials) go to jail. Enjoy life and have a good time.”

The court also pulled up the Centre for its indifferent approach towards the three-member committee headed by former top court judge Justice Amitava Roy set up to oversee the implementation of prison reforms.

“What is the size and the measurement of the office space allocated to Justice Roy,” the court asked.

“What government of India is doing? Justice Roy will do everything,” said Justice Lekhi mockingly as ASG Lekhi said that he was offered a office space in Mahipalpur but he agreed to the present place.