The Delhi High Court on Monday sought response from the city government and Director General of Prisons while hearing a plea challenging the guidelines that deprive women convicts from the benefit of treatment of a semi-open or open prison.
A division bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal also sought response from Lt. Governor on the plea seeking setting up of special semi-open and open prisons for women convicts in Delhi prisons in a time-bound manner.
Semi-open and open prison allows convicts to work outside the premises of jail and earn livelihood and return to the jail in the evening. The convicted prisoner whose behavior is assessed to be very good, are kept in such an environment where they can easily reconnect with society and make better efforts for rehabilitation.
The petition filed by Sunil Kumar Gupta, former legal adviser of Tihar Jail, questioned the guidelines dated issued in 2012 and then in 2014 which “arbitrarily exclude female convicts from the benefit of treatment of semi-open and open prisons”.
“These guidelines violate fundamental right of equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India of women prisoners confined in Delhi Jails.”
Advocate Amit Khemka said that a bare reading of the guidelines clearly demonstrates the fallacy as it treats ‘women convicts’ as being in the same category as that of ‘dangerous or habitual male prisoners’.
Yerwada Jail in Maharashtra and Rajasthan government have extended the benefit of semi-open and open prisons to its women prisoners, said the plea, adding: “It is obnoxious that on the one hand, Delhi Prisons claim to be trend setters of reforms all over the country while on the other hand, the women prisoners are being discriminated in the matter of facilities provided to jail inmates.”
As per the data published in Prisons Statistics India for the year 2015, there are about 579 women prisoners in Delhi. There are about 63 open prisons housing 5,370 prisoners in India.