Must help inmates languishing in jails, says Delhi HC Chief Justice

Anand Mohan J
At the 1-yr anniversary of Tihar's 'Project Samarthan'

On the first-year anniversary of Project Samarthan -which provides counselling to Tihar Jail inmates- Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajendra Menon Tuesday congratulated prison officials on their project. Addressing a gathering at the NDMC convention centre, he also spoke about prisons in other states, saying their conditions were "precarious" and "Article 21 does not exist in the premises of these jails".

Under the project, the Delhi Prison Administration, in collaboration with NGO Mental Health Foundation and mentored by AIIMS, had started intensive counselling services on April 16 last year. Officials said nearly 7,000 inmates have been provided counselling by mental health experts till date.

Justice Menon also referred to a sting operation conducted in the Patna High Court when he was Chief Justice, wherein it was found that "an inmate allegedly bribed jail officials to get a particular prison allotted to him so that he may be able to sleep for eight hours, unlike the jail where he could only sleep for three hours".

He also spoke about visiting a jail in Madhya Pradesh's Jabalpur, "where about 25 to 30 female inmates from tribal districts committed petty crimes and did not apply for bail, so they could deliver children in the jail as they could not afford a hospital".

"These situations are prevalent in the country. We must stand shoulder-to-shoulder to help poor people confined within the four corners," he said.

Tihar Director General Ajay Kashyap, who implemented the project, said only one suicide was reported till April this year compared to seven in 2018. "We are aiming for zero suicide in Tihar in the coming years," he said.

Delhi HC Justice Mukta Gupta said one of the reasons for failing mental health among inmates was inaction by the judiciary. Justice Menon agreed, and said DSLSA is making efforts to identify inmates languishing in jails.