Human Rights

Miserable conditions of jail inmates in Kashmir

Srinagar: A six-member team of the High Court Bar Association led by its vice president Aijaz Bedarduring its recent visit to various jails in Jammu division of the state highlighted various difficulties faced by detenues and under-trial prisoners lodged in these jails. The team visited the Central Jail in Kotbalwal, Jammu and district jails in Kathua and Udhampur on March 22 and 23.

Sixty six Kashmiri detenues and seven foreigners were lodged in the Central Jail at Kotbalwal under Public Safety Act (PSA) and 29 prisoners were lodged in district jails at Kathua and Udhampur in Jammu division of the state, said a statement of the High Court Bar Association here. The Kashmiri detenues lodged in Kotbalwal Jail told the Bar members that though they have challenged their orders of detention in the High Court at Srinagar, but their cases have not been yet decided. Most of them were ill but the jail authorities were not providing them any medical assistance, the statement said, adding that they also complained about the overhead water tanks been kept open on the rooftops, without being cleaned. They further alleged that the jail authorities had installed CCTV cameras inside their wards including latrines and bathrooms due to which their privacy gets exposed.

Abdul Majid Malla, a resident of Palhallan-Pattan in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, said that he was in the jail for the past six months and during that period his mother had come to meet him. After seeing his condition, she got shocked and passed away after sometime, he added. Malla was unable to attend the last rites of his mother. The statement said that he had challenged his order of detention in the High Court but the case has not been yet decided. The statement further quoted Sharif-uddin, another detenue and a lecturer from Sopore in north Kashmir, who said that even though he has been detained on baseless grounds, yet after his detention under PSA, he has been placed under suspension without being paid even subsistence allowance, which has caused irreparable loss and injury to him and his family.

District jail Kathua

According to the Bar Association, 20 prisoners were lodged in the district jail at Kathua and all of them were detained under PSA. One of the detainees, Salman Yousuf from north Kashmir’s Bandipora, told the Bar members that the district jail Kathua has been converted into Guantanamo Bay as there were no facilities available for the detenues and no medical treatment was provided to them. Shakeel Ahmad Bhat, a detenue from Pulwama in south Kashmir, told the Bar team that if the High Court is not inclined to decide the cases of the detenues on fast-track basis, it is better that no detenue file habeas corpus petition before the High Court. He too said that the water provided to jail inmates was impure and timely medical facilities were not available to them. “There is no doctor in the jail and when any inmate is taken ill, he is given a paracetamol tablet by the jail authorities instead of taking him to the hospital or calling a doctor. It is only in extreme cases that a doctor is called.”

District Jail at Udhampur

According to the Bar Association delegation, nine prisoners were lodged in the district jail at Udhampur and all of them were detained under PSA. Sixty-three-year-old Ghulam Mohammad Bhat of Kulangam-Handwara in north Kashmir was lodged in the jail under PSA. According to the statement, he had suffered a stroke and was paralyzed and has not been provided any support by the jail authorities to enable him to move in the ward where he has been kept. When the jail authorities were asked about it by the Bar members, they said that it is not permissible under law to provide him with any support, the statement said, adding that the detenue was trembling and had several burn injuries on his right foot, which could prove fatal.

Thirty-five-year-old Mohammad Yousuf Ganai of Turas, Nathnoosa Kupwara in north Kashmir, said that he was a government teacher and was terminated from his service on account of having been detained under PSA. Ganai, father of four children, said that because of his termination, his family comprising of 15 members, were without any sustenance. Muntazir Ahmad Dar of Kundlan Shopian in south Kashmir said that no medical assistance was provided to him by the jail authorities after he was operated twice in his head and abdomen. He pleaded that he should have been provided special medical/diagnostic checkup in some hospital. Dar, the statement said, was also under the treatment of Psychiatric Disease Hospital in Srinagar and was supposed to take regular medicines prescribed by the doctors, which he was not regularly provided by the jail authorities.

Three detenues, Tariq Ahmad Malik of Kangan in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, Aijaz Ahmad Darzi of Handwara and Abdul Qayoom Ganai of Nadihal Handwara in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, said that they have been falsely booked and detained under PSA. The trio argued that even if they had to be detained, they could have been lodged in Central Jail Srinagar or the district jail at Kupwara, but they have been lodged in Udhampur jail so that they and their family members surrender before the police.

The statement further provided details about the foreigners lodged in Central jail Kotbalwal Jammu. The statement quoting Aktharul-Islam, a Pakistani, said that he was acquitted in a criminal case but was neither released nor deported. “Instead, an appeal was filed by the state against his acquittal  and it is pending in the High Court and for the last two years it has not been heard or disposed off.” Another Pakistani, Naveed Ahmad, told the Bar members that he was provided a lawyer by the State Legal Service Authority, but the lawyer has never met him and he does not know the status of his case pending in a court at Udhampur. Similarly, Zubair Mughal from the same country, said that he was arrested two years back by police at Sopore and since then he has been lodged in Kotbalwal Jail, Jammu, under PSA. Mohammad Sadiq Chichi, another Pakistani, shared that a criminal case was pending against him in the Court of Additional Sessions Judge Sopore, but for the last almost one year he has not been produced in the court. Asif Ahmad, another Pakistani, said that there was no case pending against him in any court, yet he has been detained under PSA repeatedly for the last two years and no attempt has been made by the jail authorities to deport him, though the High Court had directed the state authorities to do so. Shahzad Ahmad, again from the same country, required immediate medical assistance, which was not made available to him, the statement added.

The Bar members emphasized that the difficulties faced by detenues and under-trial prisoners of Kashmir province lodged in different jails in Jammu would be brought to the notice of the High Court by way of an appropriate motion and seeking orders for the redressal of the grievances of the prisoners. The members also decided to approach the Chief Justice for listing the habeas corpus petitions of these and other detenues lodged in different jails all over the statebefore Special Benches of the High Courtso that these petitions are decided onpriority, which is otherwise also the requirement of the Case Flow Management Rules framed by the High Court in 2010, which envisaged that all habeas corpus petitions should be decided within 48 hours and in all circumstances such cases should be decided within 15 days from the date of their institution.

Apart from Bedar, other Bar members who visited these jails included Anwarul-Islam Shaheen, joint secretary, Hamid Shafi, treasurer and the executive members, Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, Nasir Qadri and Mudasir Yousuf.

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