19 Oct 2023 6:00 AM GMT
The Delhi High Court has issued a slew of directions to increase awareness and publicity of the existing schemes for welfare of prisoners and their families. A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula observed that ensuring that convicts, undertrials and their dependents are aware of and can access benefits designed for their welfare will be crucial...
The Delhi High Court has issued a slew of directions to increase awareness and publicity of the existing schemes for welfare of prisoners and their families.
A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula observed that ensuring that convicts, undertrials and their dependents are aware of and can access benefits designed for their welfare will be crucial in their rehabilitation and social reintegration.
“This Court remains hopeful that our directives will pave the way for a more just and compassionate approach toward those impacted by incarceration,” the court said.
The bench directed the Delhi Government’s Joint Committee to draft its recommendations regarding a 2014 scheme designed for financial support, education and welfare of children with imprisoned parents, within eight weeks.
The scheme was framed by Delhi Government’s Department of Women and Child Development and is titled “Scheme for Financial Sustenance, Education and Welfare of Children of Incarcerated Parents, 2014.”
The bench said that once formulated, the recommendations must be acted upon and implemented within four weeks thereafter.
Furthermore, the court also directed National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to make concerted effort to broaden the scope of the campaigns, launched for the welfare of family members of jail inmates, with an aim to reach the maximum number of prisoners and undertrials.
“Prison authorities must prominently display details of welfare initiatives for families of convicts and undertrials. This information should be accessible through various mediums, such as physical notice boards, newsletters, and official websites. Additionally, a system should be established to ensure that this information is communicated to relatives and visitors during their prison visits,” the court said.
It further directed the prison authorities to not only employ the expertise of the prison staff but also consider the formation of volunteer groups comprising of convicts and undertrials. The court said that such groups can play a pivotal role in assisting fellow inmates in tapping into the benefits of the available schemes.
“To ensure the efficacy of the welfare schemes and campaigns, prison authorities should establish a feedback mechanism. This would allow convicts, undertrials, and their families to provide inputs on the benefits and challenges of the schemes, helping to refine and improve them over time. This feedback should be shared with the concerned authorities,” the bench directed.
The court also directed the Delhi Government, Union Government and the prison authorities to explore the feasibility of developing a mobile application or a dedicated web portal for providing “comprehensive information” on the welfare schemes, step-by-step application procedures and to offer digital counselling or assistance towards availing benefits under such schemes.
“Registry is directed to transmit a copy of this order to (i) Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Union of India, (ii) Member Secretary, NALSA, (iii) Director General (Prisons), GNCTD, for necessary action,” the court said.
The bench closed the suo motu proceedings initiated by it in 2015 in respect of the well-being of the family members of under trial prisoners as well as convicts. Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan was appointed as amicus curiae in the matter.
Title: COURT ON ITS OWN MOTION v. CENTRAL GOVERNMENT THROUGH SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EMPOWERMENT & ORS
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 989
Click Here To Read Order