Overcrowded prisons: SC seeks explanation from Punjab home secretary

Published: February 22, 2012

CJ summons Punjab home secretary on Thursday, seeking explanation for overcrowded prisons. PHOTO: ONLINE/FILE

LAHORE: A two member bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed concern over excessive number of prisoners in jails and summoned Punjab home secretary before the court on Thursday (today) to explain how to reduce number of the prisoners and provide more facilities to them.

A two member bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Punjab home secretary to appear on Thursday to explain the reasons for overcrowding of prisons and lack of facilities. It also sought solutions to reduce the number of prisoners.

Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was heading the bench. He said that while the poor faced hardship in prison, the ‘influential’ managed to get themselves shifted to hospitals.

The apex court was hearing the bail petition of Ali Nawaz, accused for killing his wife Neelam Barial, when the issue of overcrowded prisons came to light.

The CJ blamed the prosecutors and police for the problem of overcrowded prisoners, saying that they were only interested in raking in handsome salaries instead of dispensing justice, since they did not produce sufficient evidence and witnesses, which ultimately led to the release of the accused.

He issued these remarks after going through a report submitted by the Inspector General  (IG) (prisons) in which he stated that two jails in Lahore and Kot Lakhpath were having  prisoners more than their capacity, adding that 3,659 prisoners were detained in Camp jail while its stated capacity was 1,050 prisoners.

There are 3,500 prisoners in Kot Lakhpat jail while it can accommodate only 1000 prisoners.

On the issue of challans, CJ stated that 2,306 prisoners were confined in Punjab jails against whom challans have not been submitted so far and that the police, according to law, shall have to submit challans within 15 days.

He asked IG (prisons) to explain the number of these prisoners on yearly basis but he failed to give any answer. The court also took notice of remands granted by the magisterial courts without applying ‘judicial mind’ and going through police file.

The court directed Lahore High Court Member Inspection Team (MIT) to seek explanation from the judicial magistrate, Lahore Cantt Courts, for extending unnecessary remand (both physical and judicial) of an accused without any cogent reasons and asking police why Challan has not been submitted. The court further directed MIT to convey court’s concern to all judicial magistrates of Punjab and ask them to refrain from granting remand without applying a judicial mind.

Others present in the court included IGP Haji Habibur Rehman and others officials.

Cases of individuals being placed under police physical remand prior to a trial having begun have been highlighted earlier in The Express Tribune.

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