Deplorable state of prisons in the spotlight

Supreme Court hears suo motu case concerning plight of women in jails .

Hasnaat Malik July 15, 2015
Supreme Court hears suo motu case concerning plight of women in jails. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has expressed annoyance over home secretaries for not attending meetings with Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan to improve the living condition of prisoners.

A two-judge bench of the apex court headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja on Tuesday resumed hearings regarding the suo motu case concerning the miserable condition of women in jails.

During the course of the proceedings the bench was told that in compliance with the court’s May 28 order, the LJCP has held two meetings. These meetings were regarding rapid institutional, organizational and impact assessments to strengthen the inspectorate of prisons but home secretaries did not attend those meetings.

Upon this the court remarked that do the secretaries consider themselves above the law and constitution. It added that it is supervisory role of home departments to improve the prisons system in the country.

“Based on the reports reviewed by us there is evidence of significant maladministration and systematic dysfunction in the criminal justice system at large and prisons in particular including regulatory frameworks, which needs to be rigorously diagnosed to be effectively rectified, implemented and monitored for quality and impact,” says the order.

It states that the failure to adopt and implement a sufficient due diligence to life approach as required by the law, constitutes a breach of statutory duty.

However, on the request of law officers, the court has allowed home secretaries to hold meeting with the representatives of LJCD and submit report on July 29. The bench has directed the home departments to formulate and implement a monitoring and evaluation framework and mechanism to implement the jail reforms plan.

Meanwhile, during the hearing of the same case, the bench also took notice of the appointment of special secretaries by the Sindh government in violation of rules of business. It sought explanation from the Sindh government regarding the appointment of special secretaries in violation of rules of business.

The bench observed that under the rules of business, there is no provision for the appointment of special secretary, adding that additional secretary can be appointed.

When Ahmad Bakhsh Somroo, Special Secretary Prison appeared before the bench he was asked if he has been appointed on this post under the law. The bench also remarked that if the state of affairs remained the same then special CM or PM may be appointed in the future.

It questioned whether the special secretary was a political post. Justice Khawaja asked Ahmad Bakhsh Soomro whether he was the same person who was handed over to the NAB on corruption charges on June 5, 2015.

However, Soomro replied that he was appointed on June 5. He added that the provincial government has created this post to accommodate grade-20 officers after the passage of the18th amendment.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2015. 


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