Allahabad High Court directs Advocate to give application to jail authorities for adequate facility to converse with deaf & dumb jail inmates

  • Ratna Singh
  • 02:07 PM, 29 Sep 2021

The Allahabad High Court (Lucknow Bench) recently directed an advocate to file application to the Superintendent of a Jail in Uttar Pradesh for providing adequate facility to converse with the deaf and dumb jail inmates.

The Division Bench of Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Justice Ajai Kumar Srivastava-I, while dismissing prayer 1 of the plea observed that,

“In case the petitioner makes an appropriate application to the Superintendent/Senior Superintendent of Jail concerned for providing adequate facility to converse with the deaf and dumb jail inmates, same shall be considered by the Superintendent/Senior Superintendent of Jail concerned who shall take appropriate decision thereon in accordance with law, with expedition.”

The present plea was filed by one Ashma Izzat through Advocate Kumail Haider challenging a government order dated 13th August, 2021 notified by the incumbent Additional Chief Secretary of the State of Uttar Pradesh to the Director General of Police, Prisons Reform & Administration Services, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh on the subject of visitation by the relatives of the prisoners, imprisoned in the various jails of Uttar Pradesh.

The petitioner averred that, “the G.O. has placed a deadeye on the legislative words provided under Chapter IX of The Prisons Act, 1894, (9 of 1894) which specifically provides for visits of legal advisors to civil and not convicted criminal prisoner.”

The government order (hereinafter referred as G.O.) laid out certain conditions for streamlining of visits made to the inmates, from 16/08/2021 in the light of Covid- 19 pandemic situation, such as –

1. The restraint was set on the number of visitors, limiting it to be two at the most per week.

2. Maintaining of cautious and social distancing, along with the requirement of face masks, sanitizations and thermal scanning of the visitors was made necessary.

3. Sanitizing of the inmates before they proceed to their barracks after the meeting with the visitors.

4. Mandatory requirement of Reverse Transcription–Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT. PC.R) report of last 72 hours

This public interest litigation petition was filed with the following prayers:-

"(i) Issue a writ, order or direction of suitable nature amending the impugned notification dated 13/08/21, bearing no.1424JL/22-03-2021- 26/2020 in the interest of the fundamental rights pertaining to inmates imprisoned throughout the state.

(ii) Issue, a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus directing the respondent No.2 to allow the counsels for the prisoners to meet the prisoners for the purpose to afford required legal help and seek further instructions as the case may be, in absence of any official of the prison as provided by the Act of 1894.

(iii) Issue, a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus directing the respondent No.3 to make proper arrangements in the form of public interpreters who may assist in communication build up with the disabled inmates."

It was stated by counsel appearing for the petitioner that, “though the lawyers when visit the jail inmates are given the opportunity of audience, however provisions contained in the Prisons Act, 1894 which provides that the under trial prisoners may see legal advisers without the presence of any other person, is not being followed.”

The counsel further contended that it has been stated, that when the petitioner, who in this case, is a lawyer intends to visit two jail inmates presently lodged in Lucknow District Jail who are under trials, she is not able to converse with them for the reason that the under trials are deaf and dumb and the facility of a sign language interpreter is not being provided.

As far as the challenge to the notification dated 13.08.2021 was concerned, when inquired by the Bench the counsel for the petitioner stated that condition No.4 given in the concerned order curtailed not only the right of the jail inmates to have access to legal advice but it also infringes the fundamental right, enshrined under Article 19(1)(g), of a lawyer to profess his profession inasmuch as in case, the RTPCR report is made compulsory, the same may impede his professional rights.

Taking into account the factual matrix of the present case the Bench opined that,

“condition No.4 contained in the letter/order dated 13.08.2021 has been issued taking into account the extraordinary situation prevailing on account of the present pandemic caused by Covid-19. In fact, the said guideline has been issued only in view of the present pandemic. We, thus, do not find any offending provision in the said letter/order dated 13.08.2021 including condition No.4.”

[Case title – Ashma Izzat v. - State Of U.P.Thru Addl.Chief Secy./Prisons Reform & Ors]