In an ongoing suo moto petition, the Delhi High Court took up a matter based on a letter addressed to Supreme Court Justice Kurian Joseph, signed by 612 women inmates of Tihar Jail complaining of prison overcrowding.
Dramatically, upon receiving the letter, J Kurian earnestly requested the Chief Justice of the High Court “to take up the matter appropriately so that the cry for justice is answered in accordance with law with the promptitude with which a mother responds to the cry of her child”. *groan*
In the course of this case, it’s been submitted that over 60 women held there are wrongfully undergoing trial for charges like rape and voyeurism.
Law professors Dr Aparna Chandra and Mrinal Satish are assisting the court in the case. Satish said that these women have been charged with rape in a manner that’s “utterly contrary to law”, based on their chargesheets and the warrants issued by various courts.
They also pointed out that many of the women remain in jail because they’re unable to pay their bail bonds, and that children aged six or more were being kept away from their mothers.
Anyway, prison overcrowding and the extended detention of women isn’t a new problem. Indian prisons are notoriously overcrowded, leading to atrocious living conditions. Courts have, in the past, taken it upon themselves to issue directions to ease overcrowding, like when the Delhi High Court ordered the immediate release of 152 women undertrials in Tihar Jail who had been held for over six months.
And just to add some extra sting to the proceedings, get this—Tihar Jail’s extreme overcrowding is one of the facts Vijay Mallya’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery, continues to reference in his ongoing extradition trial in the UK. She claims that Mallya shouldn’t be sent to India to face trial precisely because of jail overcrowding and poor hygiene. Isn’t it ironic? Wrongfully accused women languishing in jail contribute to prison overcrowding, and powerful corrupt men like Mallya then use that same overcrowding as an excuse to stay out of jail. Huh.
This piece originally attributed J Kurian’s request for prompt action to Dr Mrinal Satish. This has been corrected.