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The Plea had sought an amendment in the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 to include interviews with the legal advisors to be open from Monday to Friday for an appropriately allotted time with no specific cap on the number of interviews per week.
The Delhi High Court has recently refused to interfere with Government policy regarding Mulakat Days for the under-trial prisoners in a plea seeking direction to allow more visits for lawyers to meet undertrial prisoners in a week.
A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said, "In matters of policy, the Courts do not substitute its own conclusion with the one arrived at by the Government merely because another view is possible."
The order has been passed in a Public Interest Litigation plea filed by Advocate Jai A Dehadrai seeking an amendment in the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 to include interviews with the legal advisors to be open from Monday to Friday for an appropriate allotted time with no specific cap on the number of interviews per week.
However, keeping in view the fact that the present PIL is not an adversarial litigation and the petition has been filed in the interest of prisoners, this Court permitted the Dehadrai to give a representation to the State by providing suggestions.
The High Court relied on the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Jacob Puliyel v. Union of India and Ors., wherein, the Court was broadly examining policy decisions pertaining to health, it had observed that in the exercise of their judicial review, Courts should not ordinarily interfere with the policy decisions of the Executive unless the policy can be faulted on grounds of mala fide, unreasonableness, arbitrariness or unfairness, etc.
Given the above, the bench said, "Depending upon the number of undertrials and prisoners, the State has taken a decision of capping total number of visits by family members, relatives, friends and legal advisers to two times a week and it cannot be said that the said decision is completely arbitrary. The said decision has been taken after careful consideration of the facilities available in the prisons, availability of the staff and the number of undertrials."
The plea had stated that the said Rule curtails the right of the undertrials and convicts to get continuous legal meetings with their lawyers in a week, as a result of which they are disabled from preparing their legal defence.
The counsel for the petitioner had also pointed out that the reason the court needs to consider this is that as of today about 82% of prisoners in the Tihar Jail in Delhi are under-trials and the current provision of 2 days a week is not enough to cater to all of their legal requirements, and/or to strategize the legal course of action for even the ones the counsels can meet.
The plea states that the occupancy rate at Tihar Jail at 175% currently indicates "major overcrowding in jails, which further manifests a crying need for facilitating the inmates' legal conference with their legal representatives and not unnecessarily hindering it or capping it."
The plea alleged that the said rules are in direct violation of the right to access to justice as guaranteed to undertrial and convicts under Article 21 of the Constitution, as the said Rule arbitrarily caps their right to consult their lawyers only twice in one week.
Case Title: Jai A. Dehadrai & Anr. v GNCDT & Anr.
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