NHRC seeks reports on kids lodged in jails with their mothers

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New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed all states and union territories to submit reports mentioning how many children are lodged in jails with their mothers under their jurisdictions without any basic facilities.

The apex rights body issued the directive after taking suo motu cognizance of the media report about the plight of 46 boys and girls, aged between one month and six years, who are living in prisons in Odisha with their mothers, including 9 convicted and 36 undertrial prisoners.

Reportedly, the children, lodged in the jails with their mothers, are neither convicts nor under trials and they are entitled to food, shelter, medical care, clothing, education and recreational facilities but nothing is being provided to them despite the Supreme Court guidelines.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, amount to human rights violations of the innocent children. The guidelines set by the Supreme Court are very clear providing proper protection to such children but as reported, it appears, the ground reality is different. The instant news report is focused on the prisons in Odisha. However, there could be similar cases in the jails of other states too, which have not yet been noticed.

Accordingly, the commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Prisons of all the States and UT’s calling for reports along with statistics showing how many children are being kept with their mothers in the jails under their jurisdiction without ensuring facilities, necessary for psychological and physical growth as well as educational upbringing. The response from all the States and UT’s is expected within six weeks.

According to the media report published on May 20, 2018, the Directorate of Prisons and Correctional Services, Government of Odisha, these children include 25 girls and 21 boys belonging to 9 convicted and 36 undertrial women prisoners. Out of the 45 prisoner mothers, 30 belong to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities.

As reported, the Apex Court has formulated guidelines that the cases of women prisoners with children, should be disposed of expeditiously but the reality is different. There are many inmates who have been granted bail by the competent Court but they cannot be freed as they are unable to furnish the sureties.

The guidelines set by the Apex Court also ensure that the children below three years shall be allowed in crèche and those between 2-3 years, should be looked after in a nursery, run by the prisons authorities, outside the prison premises and those small children should not be kept in sub-jails, unless facilities are ensured for their biological, psychological and social growth.

A particular case of a couple has been referred in the news report, who was taken into judicial custody on May 18, 2008. Three months after her arrest, the wife delivered a baby girl in the jail. The mother with her newly born baby was kept under solitary conferment and no proper diet and massage oil etc. for the baby were provided by the jail authorities till she went on strike. They lived in four jails and their experience in raising a child in prison was reportedly painful. After spending about 9 years in jails, the couple was finally acquitted by the Court in all cases last year.

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