Taking a serious note of the rampant drug menace in Punjab's jails, the Punjab and Haryana high court has observed that until the state police catch the bigger fish, nothing would be achieved by arresting just petty drug peddlers.
The observations came from the division bench comprising chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and justice Augustine George Masih during the hearing of a case on Wednesday when the Punjab government said that to manage the outer ring security of jails, it would raise a battalion of Punjab Armed Police and Indian Reserve Battalion.
The court said it was an appreciable step, but "we are not inclined to remove central forces from the outer ring of checking in jails". The court also directed the state government to consider various suggestions given by advocate Navkiran Singh, including periodic blood sampling of jail inmates so as to check whether they were indulging in drugs.
The state government informed the court that there are 26 jails in Punjab -- eight central jails, nine sub-jails and nine district jails. A total of 249 state police personnel, 502 home guard volunteers and 646 personnel of Punjab Ex-Servicemen Corporation had been deployed to strengthen the peripheral security of jails.
It was added that it was not desirable to designate special jails in the state that could be used only for prisoners who were under trial or convicted under the NDPS Act as it was likely to create difficulties in producing undertrials in different courts.
The court was also informed that Rs 1.48 crore had been sanctioned out of the Punjab State Cancer and Drug Addiction Treatment Infrastructure Fund on September 13 for improving infrastructure of de-addiction centres functioning in eight jails.
After hearing the arguments, the court directed the Punjab government to file its response to the Centre within three weeks on the subject, including the measures that could be taken by the state as well as the Centre regarding modernisation of jails. The Centre has been directed to file a reply in the court on January 15.