The Delhi High Court on Thursday said there is nothing wrong with deducting wages of prisoners for victim welfare fund provided it is permitted under the statute, but it can’t be done through executive action.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said that while such deductions cannot be done by way of an executive order, in Delhi it was being done under the statute — the Delhi Prison Rules of 2018 — which was permissible.
It asked the Delhi government, represented by its standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra, as to why the prison authorities here had stopped making the deductions.
Mehra told the court that the practice was stopped in December last year after the high court had directed that the same be put on hold.
He also told the bench that under the Delhi Prison Rules of 2018, Rule 96(8) provided for such deductions.
Advocate Ajay Verma, appearing for petitioner Katyayini, opposed the deduction saying various high courts in the country have done away with the practice.
He also told the bench that of the Rs 15 crore collected in this manner since 2006, more than Rs 14 crore lay unutilised.
He said the amount lying unutilised can be used for welfare of children whose parents are incarcerated, as suggested by the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA), as there is already a victim compensation fund set up by Delhi government for compensating victims of various crimes.
The bench said it will continue hearing arguments in the matter on November 26.
Katyayini, a lawyer, in her plea has sought quashing of an amendment made in the Delhi Prison Rules of 1988 — adding Rule 39A — which mandated the deduction.
Subsequently, the 1988 rules were replaced by the 2018 rules which also has a similar provision.
The DSLSA has also opposed the deduction for creating a victim compensation fund, saying it was “not reasonable or justified” as the AAP government has now created a scheme for victims.
The DSLSA had earlier told the court that the rule for deducting 25 per cent of wages of prisoners w as inserted in the Delhi Prison Rules when there was no provision for compensating victims under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
However, in 2009, a provision was inserted in CrPC for putting in place a scheme for compensating victims or their dependants, the DSLSA had said and added that subsequently the Delhi Victims Compensation Scheme came into force.
No purpose would be served by maintaining a separate victim welfare fund with the jails, it had said.
With regard to utilisation of the money presently lying unused in the victim welfare fund in the jail, the DSLSA had said it could either be transferred to the Delhi Victim Compensation Fund or be moved into the corpus created in 2014 for providing financial sustenance, education and welfare of children of incarcerated parents.
The PIL has claimed that of the over Rs 15 crore collected since 2006 from wages of convicts lodged in the Tihar Jail, approximately Rs 80.73 lakh has been disbursed to 194 eligible victims and the remaining over Rs 14 crore lay unused.