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One prisoner dies every two days in Bihar jails
June 25, 2008 09:55 IST
With nearly one death taking place every second day, the jails in Bihar are fast turning into terror houses, suggesting that all was not well within these high-walled fortresses supposed to serve as reformatories.
According to official figures, 180 prisoners died across the state in 2007 - almost one death every two days.
The state accounted for 205 custodial deaths in 2005, 175 the following year, 180 in 2007 and 56 in the first four months of the current year, Inspector General (prisons) Sandeep Paundrik told PTI.
Paundrik, however, denied involvement of jail officials in any of these deaths, saying the prison officials never used 'third degree' methods while dealing with the inmates as the amended CrPC mandated magisterial inquiry into all cases of custodial deaths.
Referring to the high number of such incidents in Bihar, which has 54 jails, he attributed these mainly to the age factor and said that congestion and improper civic amenities resulted in the poor health of the inmates.
"Over 44,000 prisoners are lodged in 54 jails, which have the capacity to accommodate only 24,500 people. Over 1,400 prisoners are above 70 years of age and suffering from various diseases. They require frequent medical check-ups and regular monitoring," he said.
There was also an acute shortage of doctors and para-medical staff, he said. While there were only 45 doctors against the sanctioned strength of 65, there was no para-medical staff in several jails.
However, human rights activists want every case of custodial death to be immediately reported to the National Human Rights Commission.
"Though the amendment to the CrPC had ensured that every case of death, in police or jail custody, was inquired into by a judicial magistrate and not by an executive magistrate, independent inquiries by the human rights organisation had revealed that lapses on the part of jail authorities were the main reason behind custodial deaths," said national vice-president of People's Union for Civil Liberties, Prabhakar Sinha.
"The state governments across the country need to be sensitised about the human rights of the prisoners and they should evolve an effective mechanism to check maltreatment," he said.
The jail authorities should abide by the NHRC directive that every custodial death be reported to it within 24 hours of the occurrence, the post-mortem examination videographed and the tapes sent to the human rights watchdog, Sinha said.
Echoing Sinha's view, president of the Bihar unit of PUCL Vinay Kanth charged that the 'hellish' condition prevailing in jails at times forced the inmates to commit
He said the living space in the six central jails, 33 district jails and 15 sub-jails was grossly inadequate to house over 44,500 prisoners.
"Even basic amenities like toilets, drinking water and health care facilities are lacking in most jails, creating discontent and even unrest among the inmates."
"Combined with rampant corruption, this is a potentially explosive mix," he said, underscoring the need for adding to the housing capacity and expediting disposal of cases by the judiciary to ease pressure on jails.