The two-judge bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice M S Raman allowed the OPHWC managing director to be present in court through the virtual mode on January 2, the next date fixed for further consideration on the issue of congestion in jails.The HC expected the MD to explain about achieving the revised targets set for completion of projects involving expansion of capacity of jails.
The bench issued the direction after perusing through the affidavit filed by director general (Prisons) Manoj Chhabra and a convenience note filed by amicus curiae Gautam Misra.
In his affidavit, Chhabra, who was also present in the virtual mode, had outlined the steps taken to increase the capacity of jails and the ongoing projects to achieve that purpose. As many as 21 projects were underway and the OPHWC fixed varying timelines, of which some had been revised.
In his convenience note the amicus curiae pointed out that addressing the problem of overcrowding in jails now depends much on expediting projects undertaken by OPHWC.
The HC took note of the fact that both in the sub-jail in Jajpur and special sub jail in Bhadrak, the percentage of excess population was 71% and 50% respectively. Also, there were 17 jails where the excess population was in the range of 20% to 40%, the affidavit of Chhabra indicated.
Another area which the HC felt is still a cause of worry is the availability of psychiatrists and psychologists to cater to the mental health needs of the jail inmates.
Chhabra stated in his affidavit that the process of empanelment of consultant psychiatrists and psychologists is underway and by the next date of hearing on January 2 it is expected that there will be a larger number of mental health professionals available to the prison department to cater to the mental health needs of the prisoners.