Delhi HC Seeks Govt Reply On PIL To Appoint Law Officers For 16 Jails In Delhi

Delhi HC Seeks Govt Reply On PIL To Appoint Law Officers For 16 Jails In Delhi

The Delhi High Court Tuesday sought the response of the AAP government and the director general (DG) of Tihar Jail on a PIL seeking directions to appoint one law officer each in 16 jails of the national capital in a time-bound manner.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice A J Bhambhani issued a notice to the state government and DG (prisons) on the petition and listed the matter for further hearing on August 29.

The petition, filed by advocate Amit Sahni, alleged that despite the Delhi Prisons Act, 2000 mandating that there shall be a law officer in every prison, at present there is only one law officer for all 16 jails of the state who is stationed at prison headquarters at Tihar here.

It also claimed that from August 2016 to February 2019, no law officer was appointed at the prison headquarters and the legal affairs were dealt with by an officer equivalent to the rank of a deputy superintendent.

There are 16 jails in the state -- nine at the Tihar prison complex, one at the Rohini prison complex and six at the Mandoli prison complex.

Section 6 of Delhi Prisons Act, 2000 provides that every prison shall have a superintendent, a deputy superintendent, a medical officer, a law officer, a welfare officer and such other officers as the government thinks it necessary.

The plea said jails in the state are over-crowded and a law officer for every prison would result in a better administration.

"There are 16 jails in Delhi and law officer (headquarters) is looking after legal matters of all 16 jails, including legal work pertaining to the headquarters. The legal work cannot be handed over to officer with ad hoc arrangement.

"Since the beginning, Tihar Jail is overburdened and despite setting up seven new jails outside the Tihar Jail campus, prisons in Delhi are overcrowded, thereby resulting in a stressful environment for officers and staff," the plea said.

"Further, the burden is created by the respondents by not recruiting law officers for every jail as per the mandate of the statute i.e. Delhi Prisons Act, 2000. It is not only in the interest of the prisoners but also in the interest of better management of Tihar Jail to have a law officer for every jail under the respondent," it said.

The plea said there is a superintendent, a deputy superintendent and a medical officer for each jail but the respondents have not complied with the mandate of section 6 of Delhi Prisoners Act, 2000 for reasons best known to them.

"The respondents (government of NCT Delhi and Director General of Prisons, Tihar) are duty-bound to comply with the mandate of Delhi Prisons Act, 2000 in its letter and spirit," it said.

The petition said the appointment of a law officer was necessary to supervise all legal matters, draft and file replies to the court, follow up on cases, appear in court along with the government counsel, co-ordinate with branches of the department for compliance with directions of courts and maintenance of monthly statistics of court cases among others.