The Supreme Court today expressed concern that there were no provisions to address the issue of children who have to be released from jail on attaining the age of six after staying with their incarcerated mothers and said a pragmatic policy was needed to address the issue..
Terming the issue of children staying in jail with their imprisoned mothers as an "extremely serious problem", the apex court said there was nothing to indicate as to how such minors were looked after following their release from the prison.
"Surely, these children cannot be left to fend for themselves," a bench comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.
"We have expressed to the amicus curiae that it might be appropriate if a committee is appointed to look into this issue in great depth so that a viable and pragmatic policy can be made about these children," the bench said.
The court, which is hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country, also dealt with other issues related to the jails.
The bench requested the high courts to look into the functioning of a review committees, which deal with the issue of release of under trial prisoners.
It said that a standard operating procedure (SOP) prepared by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) with respect to functioning of under trial review committees was required to be "re-drafted".
"It (SOP) reads like minutes of a meeting. You (NALSA) have to re-draft it completely. It is not a SOP," the bench told NALSA Director S S Rathi, who was present in the court.
Advocate Gaurav Agrawal, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, told the bench that around 1,800 children were there in jails across the country.
The bench asked him regarding education, health facility and well being of such children who were living in jails with their mothers and also about what happens to them when they come out of the prison after attaining the age of six.
The amicus told the court that in pursuance to the apex court's direction in the matter, model prison manual 2016 was prepared by the government.
During the hearing, the bench also dealt with a separate application filed by an NGO which has raised the issue of foreigners detained at the detention centres in Assam.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Centre, told the bench that he would take instruction in the matter and would get back to the court.
He said that Article 21 of the Constitution which deals with protection of life and personal liberty was applicable even to foreigners who are in India.
NALSA told the bench that legal aid was provided by the authority to the foreigners also.
The bench issued notices to the Centre and Assam on the application and sought their responses within two weeks.
"We would like to know from the Centre and the state about the living condition of persons in these detention centres," the bench said.
The apex court had earlier taken strong exception to overcrowded jails and said that prisoners also have human rights and they cannot be kept in jail like "animals".
The court had earlier passed a slew of directions over unnatural deaths in jails and on prison reforms across India.
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