Thursday, February 22, 2024

Sikkim High Court disposes of suo motu PIL on prison conditions in Sikkim

The PIL was registered sometime in 2015 in pursuance to the directions issued by the  Supreme Court. From 2015 till date, several orders have been passed from time to time and in the meanwhile, conditions have vastly improved.

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The Sikkim High Court recently disposed of a suo motu PIL pertaining to the condition of prisons in the state of Sikkim.

The PIL was registered sometime in 2015 in pursuance to the directions issued by the  Supreme Court. From 2015 till date, several orders have been passed from time to time and in the meanwhile, conditions have vastly improved.

Jorgay Namka, the Amicus Curiae in the matter, recalled his personal visit to the Central Prison at Rongyek. The Division Bench of Chief Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice Meenakshi Madan Rai noted that the present condition of the Central Prison is quite satisfactory.

At this stage, the Bench was informed by the advocate of the State that so far as an additional vertical construction of the prison is concerned, steps have been taken by the State Government and work order(s) have been issued on 30th November, 2021.

The work order(s) specifies/specify that the additional construction has to be completed within a stipulated time frame of 18 (eighteen) months. The State Government shall ensure that this timeframe is strictly adhered to by the contractor(s), observed the Court.

The Bench further observed  that the State Government shall also endeavour to take the jail authorities into confidence whenever new construction or modification of any existing structure of prisons is made.

In light of above observation the Court does not find any further reason to keep this PIL pending and as such, dispose of this matter with liberty to the learned amicus to invoke this jurisdiction in future, if further issues arise based on the observations/directions of the Supreme Court.

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It is pertinent to note that on August 10 this year , Advocate General of the State has apprised the Court:-

(i) That, presently the total holding capacity of prisoners in State Central Prison, Rongyek, East Sikkim, is ‘186’ (one hundred and eighty six) inmates. 
(ii) Three more barracks are being constructed which will be completed by 15-12-2021, which will house 60 (sixty) more male inmates and 15 (fifteen) females inmates, a total of 75 (seventy five) inmates.
(iii) Inspection of the existing barracks was made by the Committee constituted vide Notification No.70/Home/2020, dated, 15-10-2020. It has been found that 9 (nine) barracks are suitable for vertical extension (Barrack No.1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10). 
(iv) The proposed vertical extension will house approximately 150 (One hundred and fifty) more inmates. 
(v) Tenders have been issued for construction of the vertical extension. The opening of the bids were scheduled for 17- 05-2021 which could not fructify due to the lockdown. Bids were opened on 09-07-2021. 
(vi) The Buildings and Housing Department has informed that the Contractor with the lowest quoted rate was identified and steps are in progress for award of the contract. 
(vii) That, the Central Prison Rongyek, will also house a De Addiction and Detoxification Center for inmates of drug abuse with a capacity for about 200 (two hundred) such inmates. This Center proposes to include a Doctor’s room, Counseling room, Visitor’s room, visiting lawyers room, ward and patient room. This is however projected for completion only in 2029. 
(viii) As far as District Prison, Boomtar, Namchi, South Sikkim, is concerned, the present holding capacity is ’74’ (seventy four) inmates. 
(ix) Boomtar Jail cannot be extended due to the geographical limitations, viz., the area being a sinking area. 
(x) In lieu of extension of Boomtar Jail, land has been identified in Gyalshing, West Sikkim, for construction of a Jail therein for offenders in West Sikkim. The Social Impact Assessment (SIA) has been completed. Presently, the Land Revenue and Disaster Management Department has issued the work order for translation of SIA reports in the local language. This is still under process. 
(xi) Addressing the issue of establishment of Jail in North Sikkim is concerned, it was found financially not feasible considering the total number of prisoners involved in criminal cases in North Sikkim, the expenditure incurred for transportation of inmates to the North District from State Central Prison, Rongyek, East Sikkim vis-à-vis the cost of construction of a Jail in Mangan, North Sikkim. 
(xii) The inspection report of Learned District & Sessions Judge, North Sikkim, at Mangan, dated 04-08-2017, has also been considered. It is found that certain issues have been raised therein pertaining to measures that are yet to be addressed in the State Central Prison, Rongyek, viz., increased lighting in the Cells, provision of flush in the wash rooms, maintenance of medical files of inmates, more importantly fire safety measures which apparently are yet to be installed.

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