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Yerawada Jail Tourism Initiative launched by Maharashtra – Historical significance of Yerawada jail

Yerawada Jail Tourism Initiative launched by Maharashtra – Historical significance of Yerawada jail

Relevance:

  • GS 3 || Security || Tackling Security Threats || Prisons

Why in the news?

On 26th January, 2021, the Prison Department of Maharashtra launched its jail tourism initiative. The initiative started with the more than 150-year old Yerawada Central Prison in Pune.

History of the Yerawada Jail:

  • 1866 – Yerawada Central Prison is constructed. Many leaders of the Indian independence movement were imprisoned here.
  • January, 1898 to February, 1899 – Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was jailed in this prison.
  • Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned at Yerawada jail three times
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was imprisoned twice here
  • August, 1930 to December, 1930 – Pandit Motilal Nehru was jailed here. August 1930 to October 1930 – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was imprisoned here.
  • 1932 – The historic Poona Pact was inked here, between Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar
  • April to May, 1936 – Subhas Chandra Bose was imprisoned here, December, 1940 – Sarojini Naidu was jailed here for 12 days.
  • Yerawada Jail at present:
    • Yerawada Central Prison is the largest jail in Maharashtra and one of the largest maximum security prisons in the country. It has an inmate population of close to 5,000.
    • It is spread over 500 acres. The prison complex also has a minimum security open jail and a women’s jail on its premises

The Prospect of Jail Tourism:

  • Yerawada Jail has two historic yards, which are groups of cells, named after Gandhi and Tilak.
    • These will be open to visitors.
    • These yards do not house inmates.
    • The visitors will also get to see the ‘faasi’ yard, the area where the death sentence is executed.
  • A standard operating procedure (SOP) has been put in place for these visits, which has been published on the official website of Maharashtra prison department.
  • Considering the security and COVID-related safety concerns, initially only 50 persons will be allowed to visit the prison, per day.
  • Visitors will not be allowed to carry any electronic equipment or eatables.
  • The prison administration has prohibited researchers working on prison or related issues, from visiting the premises under the jail tourism scheme

Prison Reforms in India:

  • Prisons‟ is a State subject under List-II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. The management and administration of Prisons falls exclusively in the domain of the State Governments, and is governed by the Prisons Act, 1894 and the Prison Manuals of the respective State Governments. Thus, States have the primary role, responsibility and authority to change the current prison laws, rules and regulations.
  • Various Committees, Commissions and Groups have been constituted by the State Governments as well as the Government of India (GoI), from time to time, such as the All India Prison Reforms Committee (1980) under the Chairmanship of Justice A.N. Mulla (Retd.), R.K. Kapoor Committee (1986) and Justice Krishna Iyer Committee (1987) to study and make suggestions for improving the prison conditions and administration, inter alia, with a view to making them more conducive to the reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners
  • The Model Prison Manual
    • The Committee prepared the Model Prison Manual (MPM) and presented it to the Government of India in 1960 for implementation.
    • On the lines of the Model Prison Manual, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, in 1972, appointed a working group on prisons. It brought out in its report the need for a national policy on prisons.
  • The Mulla Committee
    • In 1980, the Government of India set-up a Committee on Jail Reform, under the chairmanship of Justice A. N. Mulla. The basic objective of the Committee was to review the laws, rules and regulations keeping in view the overall objective of protecting society and rehabilitating offenders. The Mulla Committee submitted its report in1983.
  • The Krishna Iyer Committee
    • In 1987, the Government of India appointed the Justice Krishna Iyer Committee to undertake a study on the situation of women prisoners in India. It has recommended induction of more women in the police force in view of their special role in tackling women and child offenders.
  • Subsequent developments:
    • Following a Supreme Court direction (1996) in Ramamurthy vs. State of Karnataka to bring about uniformity nationally of prison laws and prepare a draft model prison manual, a committee was set up in the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D). The jail manual drafted by the committee was accepted by the Central government and circulated to State governments in late December 2003.

Major Problems of Prisons Relevant to India:

  • Overcrowding: Congestion in jails, particularly among under trials has been a source of concern.

  • Corruption and extortion: Extortion by prison staff, and its less aggressive corollary, guard corruption, is common in prisons around the world. Food services are the most common sources of corruption in the Punjab jails
  • Unsatisfactory living conditions: Overcrowding itself leads to unsatisfactory living conditions. Although several jail reforms outlined earlier have focused on issues like diet, clothing and cleanliness, unsatisfactory living conditions continue in many prisons around the country.
  • Staff shortage and poor training: The ratio between the prison staff and the prison population is approximately 1:7. It means only one prison officer is available for 7 prisoners, while in the UK, 2 prison officers are available for every 3 prisoners
  • Inadequate prison programmes: Despite the problems of overcrowding, manpower shortage and other administrative difficulties, innovative initiatives have been undertaken in some prisons. For e.g. the Art of Living has been carrying out a SMART programme in Tihar Jail.
  • Poor spending on health care and welfare: The maximum expenditure in Indian prisons is on food. West Bengal, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi reported relatively higher spending on medical expenses during that year, while Bihar, Karnataka and West Bengal reported relatively higher spending on vocational and educational activities. Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Chattisgarh reported relatively higher spending on welfare activities.
  • Lack of legal aid: In India, legal aid to those who cannot afford to retain counsel is only available at the time of trial and not when the detainee is brought to the remand court
  • Abuse of prisoners: Physical abuse of prisoners by guards is another chronic problem
  • Health Problems in prisons: The overcrowding, poor sanitary facilities, lack of physical and mental activities, lack of decent health care, all increase the likelihood of health problems in prisons
  • Women in Prisons: Although the population of women in prisons is relatively low, their adverse social positions and social disadvantage make them more liable to rejection from families and greater dejection when they are in prison. Low levels of education and poor legal awareness makes women more likely to serve longer sentences in prison.

Rights of prisoners:

  • Right to Legal Aid: Human rights would become meaningless unless a person is provided with legal aid to enable him to have access to justice in case of violation of his human rights. In the case of H. Wadanrao Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra, the Court held that the right to legal aid is one of the ingredients of fair procedure.
  • Right to Speedy Trial: Right to speedy trial is a fundamental right of a prisoner implicit in article 21 of the Constitution. It ensures just, fair and reasonable procedure. In the case of Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar, a shocking state of affairs in regard to the administration of justice came forward.
  • Right against Solitary Confinement, Handcuffing & Bar Fetters and Protection from Torture: Solitary Confinement in a general sense means the separate confinement of a prisoner Torture is regarded by the police/investigating agency as normal practice to check information regarding crime
  • Right to meet friends and Consult Lawyer: The horizon of human rights is expanding. Prisoner’s rights have been recognized not only to protect them from physical discomfort or torture in the prison but also to save them from mental torture. In Francis Coralie Mullin v. The Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi and others, The Supreme Court ruled that the right to life and liberty includes the right to live with human dignity
  • Right to Reasonable Wages in Prison: Remuneration, which is not less than the minimum wages, has to be paid to anyone who has been asked to provide labour or service by the state. The payment has to be equivalent to the service rendered, otherwise it would be ‘forced labour’ within the meaning of Article 23 of the Constitution. In the case of Mahammad Giasuddin v. State of A.P., the court directed the state to take into account that the wages should be paid at a reasonable rate.

What can be done for better prison development?

  • Activities include outdoor activities like sports, cultural programs, handling prison industries.
  • The prisoners who are interested in developing a career through these activities should be supported. These activities not only would develop prisoners’ physique but would refresh his mental state and would serve as a break from the tiresome work and would imbibe in him a spirit of sportsmanship.
  • The inclination towards the literature should be given due consideration by making available various books on self-help, motivation, novels, etc. The library should be available 24*7 to the prisoners.
  • The most innovative is the idea of setting up souvenir shops and handling the prison business; this would not only serve as an activity but would also generate income for the prison.
  • The open prison system has come as a very modern and effective alternative to the system of closed imprisonment. The establishment of open prisons on a large scale as a substitute for the closed prisons, the latter being reserved for hardcore criminals shall be one of the greatest prison reforms in the penal system.
  • Yet several steps have been taken to improve the conditions of prisons, but much more is required to be done.
  • The Central Government along with NGO’s and prison administration should take adequate steps for effective centralization of prisons and a uniform jail manual should be drafted throughout the country. The uniformity of standards can be maintained throughout all the States.
  • Thus such practices will help in changing the traditional and colonial outlook of the Indian Prison System and also help the prisoners to become more responsible, creative and potential citizens.

Conclusion:

India is the champion of human rights causes all across the world, but the dismal condition of Indian prison reflects the paradox that exists in the Indian criminal justice system. So prison reforms need to see the light of the day, but it must be accompanied by the judicial system reforms and police reforms, as the trio forms the pillars of the criminal justice system.

Mains oriented question:

Why after so many years of independence there are so many loopholes in the criminal justice system of India? (200 words)