"What is the difference if there are no restrictions in jail?" says Delhi High Court while hearing plea seeking increase in Mulaqaat Days of undertrial prisoners

  • Shreya Agarwal & Aishwarya Iyer
  • 02:02 PM, 08 Nov 2021

A Chief Justice DN Patel-led bench of the the Delhi High Court while refusing to entertain a plea seeking increase in number of days for undertrial prisoners to meet with their legal advisors, said today, "What is the difference if there are no restrictions in jail? There is no end of all these demands. Why be sent to jail (at all)? You sit in your room only."

The bench said that 2 days a week, which is the present position of allowance as per law is sufficient and remarked that if such petitions are allowed, the required number of days could just keep on increasing, "...then you will want 3 times a week, then 5, then 15 will also not be enough. Why is the place a prison?"

These observations were made by the High Court while hearing a plea which seeks an amendment in the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 to include interview 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.

The plea further seeks to declare Rule 585 of the Rules of 2018 as ultra vires of the Constitution.

Rule 585 reads as follows: 

585. Every prisoner shall be allowed reasonable facilities for seeing or communicating with, his family members, relatives, friends and legal advisers for the preparation of an appeal or for procuring bail or for arranging the management of his property and family affairs.

He shall be allowed to have interviews with his family members, relatives, friends and legal advisers twice in a week. A prisoner may be allowed to work any number of letters at his cost, however government will provide four post cards in a month, if he so desires.

The plea filed by Advocate Jai A Dehadrai states 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 also pointed out that the reason 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 are able to meet.

Upon the court's asking as to how many days the petitioner wanted it to be, the counsel replied stating it could be increased as per what the court deemed fit. However, the court, as well as counsel Satyakam appearing for the government of Delhi were unwilling to entertain the demand.

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 to only twice in one week.

On such grounds, the plea sought declaration of Rule 585 of Delhi Prisons Rules, 2018 as ultra vires the Constitution and allowing of counsels of prisoners to visit them more than twice a week as an interim relief.

The court entertained neither.

Cause Title: Jai A. Dehadrai & Anr. v GNCDT & Anr.