Open Prisons: SC Asks Centre To Hold Meeting With All States To Study Rajasthan Model And Adopt Uniform Guidelines [Read Order]

In a significant development in the ongoing prison reforms case before the bench of Justices Madan B.Lokur and Deepak Gupta, the  Amicus Curiae, Gaurav Agrawal, filed an application seeking adoption of the Rajasthan model of open prisons, by starting at least one open prison in every district of the country.

The bench took note of the recent report on the open prisons in Rajasthan, submitted by activist and researcher, Smita Chakraburtty, and asked the Centre, to invite her to the meeting, and consult her, before finalising the guidelines.

Earlier, Agrawal told the court that there are 63 open prisons in the country, and nature of these prisons is different in different states.

The Attorney General, K.K.Venugopal agreed that it is a novel experiment, and requires study.  When he said that the States should not have any objections in studying the Rajasthan experiment, and learn from it, Justice Lokur said the Centre should take the lead in framing guidelines. “Otherwise, there will be total confusion”, he said.

To this, the AG said he wanted the states to respond first, before the Centre takes any action.  Justice Lokur then suggested that the Ministry of Home Affairs can call for a conference with the states on this issue for one or two days.

When AG insisted that it would be better if the Centre knows beforehand what the stand of the states is, the bench said asking the states to file affidavits, and rejoinders would be time-consuming.  If the Centre holds a meeting with the state Directors General of Police, they can get instructions from their Governments, the bench suggested.

The bench then directed the States and Union Territories to file reply in four weeks to the Amicus Curiae, to the proposal on open prisons, and thereafter, the Ministry of Home Affairs has been asked to hold a conference on the subject.

The next date of listing of the case is February 21, next year.

The AG, after the conclusion of the hearing, promised Chakraburtty that he would get the MHA to approve her suggestions on open prisons, and acknowledge her contribution to the case.

Directions issued by the Court

(i) The Ministry of Home Affairs to have a meeting with the Directors General and Inspectors General of Prison of all the State Governments and Union Territories to see the feasibility of establishing open prisons. The Ministry of Home Affairs will send a communication to the concerned authorities in the State Governments and Union Territories asking for their response to the idea of open prisons – whether they are willing to set up open prisons and the manner in which the open prisons could be operated. The concerned authorities should respond to 9 the Ministry of Home Affairs preferably within a period of four weeks and the meeting will be held immediately thereafter in the first week of February, 2018.

(ii) NALSA will also send a similar communication to the State Legal Services Authorities indicating the information required and will also try and have a meeting with the Member Secretaries with the State Legal Services Authorities, if necessary through video-conferencing so that their views may also be made available.

(iii) In the meeting that the Ministry of Home Affairs is directed to hold in the first week of February, 2018, the Member Secretary, the Director of NALSA, learned amicus curiae and Ms. Smita Chakraburtty will also be invited.

Read the Order Here