In 20 years, the population of inmates in prisons of Rajasthan has risen 150% but the escort force, which takes them to court, has remained static since 1970s. A report by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has found that a minor increase of 4% is due to force made available to new districts.
The CHRI study titled — ‘The Missing Guards: A study of Rajasthan’s court production system’ — states that over 2,500 inmates are supposed to be produced before magistrates but, taken cumulatively, approximately a third do not make it to the court on stipulated dates.
Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kota, Bharatpur, Alwar, Ajmer, Bikaner, Jhalawar, Dholpur and Sikar are the top ten districts with highest non-production figures and account for 75% of the total such cases in the state. In Jodhpur and Bharatpur central jails, non-production is as high as 56 and 51%. An analysis of production statistics from Alwar district jail reveals periods without being brought to court can go for as long as five months.
The report underlines that the state fails to produce one-third of its under trials in court on a daily basis, identifying chronic shortage of police escorts as a major reason.
Interestingly, the report says that when the courts haul up prisons for not bringing inmates to court on due dates, the prison department blames the police while the police blame shortfall in their own numbers as their inability.
The study was started from Alwar jail in 2011, says CHRI project officer Raja Bagga, but expanded it to across Rajasthan in 2013. The subject of the study is 33 jails, including 25 district and 8 central jails.
The study points to another vulnerability being created through the escort deficits as the same escorts also ferry prisoners to hospitals. Even in medical emergencies, 30% of the time an inmate is not taken to a medical centre owing to a escort shortage. The study considers the 2010 observations and concerns made in this regard by the Rajasthan Jail Committee as still valid.
The Jail Committee Report states, “It also becomes difficult to provide medical facility to prisoners in the absence of police escorts. In April 2010, from Jaipur Central Jail 468 prisoners were to be sent for specialist treatment of which only 51 could be taken to hospital. Even when the guards have been provided, they are made available later in the day, and sending prisoners to a general hospital becomes redundant as specialists leave the hospital by that time.”
Acknowledging the gravity of the systemic problem, the Jodhpur bench has directed the government to give an estimate of the funds that would be required to fill the current deficit. At the last estimate done in 2010, the system required at least 712 additional escorts and 102 vehicles. Government would need to invest an additional Rss 610 lakh per annum.
Commenting on the report director general of police (jail) Ajit Singh said the figures stated in the report are somewhere correct. The job of jails is to hold prisoners and it is the police who present them in court but they have a shortage of manpower. “We have written about it to the police department and have even informed them about the districts where the cases are on high number,” he added.
CHRI director Maja Daruwala, says, “The infirmities and irregularities in the court production process have become so embedded that they are accepted as ‘normal’, and so continue to be disregarded both to accommodate a malfunctioning system and for the convenience of those running it. The courts must ensure that all functionaries whose actions affect the prisoner do nothing that will impinge on the speed and fairness of the trial or subvert its course.”