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New Delhi: The Supreme Court has expressed its disappointment that several states have not yet appointed the board of visitors who regularly inspect prisons to ensure that they are being run in accordance with rules.

While terming the appointment of board of visitors “an absolute necessity”, a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta wondered as to why states were not following the model prison manual which was prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The bench was informed by advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the prison reforms matter, that several states have not yet appointed board of visitors and even in Delhi’s Tihar jail, the appointment of the board has not been notified.

“The appointment of board of visitors that regularly visits jails is an absolute necessity and it is also provided for in the model prison manual prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India,” the bench said.
“We do not see why an acceptable document prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs should not be followed by the prison departments,” the court said.
The bench was also informed that Ministry of Home Affairs has issued advisories about the appointment of board of visitors but several states have not followed it.

The apex court, which is hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country, has listed the matter for hearing on August 8.
The bench said that it would also deal with the issue of ‘open prisons’ on the next date of hearing.

Semi-open prisons or open prisons allow convicts to work outside the jail premises and earn a livelihood and return in the evening.
The concept was brought in to assimilate the convicts with the society and reduce their psychological pressure as they faced lack of confidence in leading normal lives outside.
The court had earlier taken strong exception to overcrowded jails across the country and had said that prisoners also have human rights and they cannot be kept in jail like “animals”.

It had earlier passed a slew of directions over unnatural deaths in jails and on prison reforms across India.


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