Etah Elderly Inmate case: NHRC says, inhuman and violation of SC guidelines; recommends 25K compensation

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In the case No. 12689/24/22/2021 complained by Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi of PVCHR to National Human Rights Commission on 14/11/2022 relating to an elderly chained-up jail inmate in Etah, Uttar Pradesh, who later died in the judicial custody, the Commission has taken strong note and termed this utterly inhuman that violates the human rights of an individual.

The NHRC, in a letter issued to the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh on November 14, 2022 said that vide proceedings dated 19.05.2021, it took cognizance of the matter and observed and directed as under:

“It is a very serious matter. The Commission fails to understand what fear is there from a 92 years old inmate. It shows how insensitive and selfish the jail attendants were. From this incident, a further inference can be drawn, if a 92-year-old ill person is chained to bed during his treatment, the persons who can really be a threat, would be treated in more inhuman and barbaric manner.

Keeping a 92 years old ill person in Jails indicates towards malfunctioning of Sentence Review Boards in the State. The larger and Institutional issue is, for the protecting the Human rights of the prisoners, the functioning of Sentence Review Boards in the State of UP should be improved. Under section 433 Cr. PC and Prison Rules, the Government has powers to commute the Sentence through Sentence Review Board. Functioning of Sentence Review Board in professional manner is necessary to decongest jails and relieve the burden of Government form taking care of a 92 years old ill person.

The Chief Secretary Govt. of U.P. be asked to explain as to 1. When was the last meeting of Sentence Review Board held, 2. How many cases are pending before Sentence Review Board, 3. How many sentences have been commuted by Sentence Review Board in year 2020 and 2019, and 4. What system is being followed in Jails for referring the matters to Sentence Review Boards. Let the report be sent within 6 weeks.”

After the issuance of conditional summon to the Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, vide proceeding dtd 26.06.2022. Several reports on the matter have been received.

The report submitted by the Special Secretary, Prison and Correctional Services, Div-5, Lucknow dtd 06.09.2022, has been received. Report reveals that, deceased convicted accused named Baburam Pradhan s/o Balwant Jatav was first sent in judicial custody by the order of the Court in PS Sakit, Etah, Case Crime / no. 72/1984, u/s 302/364 IPC. He was in prison as UTP from 28.03.1984 to 27.06.1984, as released on bail. After the conclusion of the trial, the accused was again sent to jail as Convicted prisoner from 17.07.1990 to 26.07.1990. The convicted accused was again sent to judicial custody on the directions of the CJM Court Etah on 06.02.2021. On dtd 09.05.2021 prisoner complained of difficulty in breathing. He was examined by the jail doctor and his oxygen saturation level was low. After his preliminary treatment, he was referred and shifted to District Hospital Etah and was further referred to JNMC, Aligarh. On dtd 14.05.2021 he was found positive for Covid-19 and thereafter expired during his treatment on 17.05.2021. In this case late Baburam Pradhan has served actual prison term of directly/indirectly of total 06 months and 28 days. Due to his ineligibility for premature release, no action was taken in this regard. It is further intimated in the report that, there is no record of Review Board meeting in the prison records, no case is pending before the Review Board.

Another report dtd 07.09.2022 submitted by the Superintendent, Prison and Correctional Services, HQ, Lucknow has been received. It has been intimated through the report that, information regarding the raised points by the Commission in its directions vide proceeding dtd 19.05.2021, was seeked from Central prison of Agra, Prayagraj, Bareilly, Varanasi and District Jail Lucknow. It was revealed in the submitted report that, no meeting of Sentense Review Board (SRB) was held since last 01 year in any of the 05 quoted prisons. No cases were pending before any SRB. No commutation has been done by the SRB in year 2019 and 2020. U.P jail Manual is being followed to refer the matter to SRB.

The report is taken on record. The reports tabled before the Commission in this case delineate that the convicted prison named Baburam Pradhan was convicted in PS Sakit, Etah, Case Crime / no. 72/1984, u/s 302/364 IPC. He served the total actual prison time of 06 months and 28 days, till his judicial custody death on 17.05.2021. Due to his ineligibility for premature release as per the prevalent UP Jail Manual, no action was taken in this regard. Further, it has been intimated to the Commission that, no meeting of the Sentense Review Board had taken place in 2019 and 2020.

The Commission would restrain itself from commenting here on the Judicial custody death of the victim Baburam Pradhan, as the same is being taken into cognizance by the Commission vide case no. 33428/24/22/2021-JCD.

With regard to improper functioning of the Sentense Review Board in the State, the Commission directs the Principal Secretary, Prison Administration and Reform Services, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh to ensure timely conduct of the meeting of the Sentense Review Board in the Prisons. As per the UP Jail Manual prastar no. 234, “Meetings of the revising board shall be convened by the chairman in the months of January and July every year”. The Advisory/Guidelines issued by the Commission to all the Chief Secretaries/ Administrators of State/UTs on the premature release of prisoners vide Commissions letter dtd 08.11.1999 and subsequent modification of Paras 3 & 4 of its guidelines issued vide letter no. 233/10/97-98 (FC) dtd 26.09.2003, shall be considered duly complied with.

Further, on the issue of handcuffing of the old victim (80+) in bed during his treatment at hospital, the Commission takes a strong note on this inhumane treatment given to the late convicted prisoner. The Supreme Court in its landmark judgement Citizens for Democracy vs State of Assam and Ors on 1 May, 1995, Writ Petition (civil) 22 of 1995 observed that, “…The handcuffing and in addition tying with ropes of the patient-prisoners who are lodged in the hospital is, the least we can say, inhuman and in utter violation of the human rights guaranteed to an individual under the International Law and the law of the land. We declare, direct and lay down as a rule that handcuffs or other fetters shall not be forced on a prisoner – convicted or under-trial-while lodged in a jail anywhere in the country or while transporting or in transit from one jail to another or from jail to court and back. The police and the jail authorities, on their own, shall have no authority to direct the hand- cuffing of any inmate of a jail in the country or during transport from one jail to another or from jail to court and back. Where the police or the jail authorities have well-grounded basis for drawing a strong inference that a particular prisoner is likely to jump jail or break out of the custody then the said prisoner be produced before the Magistrate concerned and a prayer for permission to handcuff the prisoner be made before the said Magistrate. Any violation of any of the directions issued by us by any rank of police in the country or member of the jail establishment shall be summarily punishable under the Contempt of Court Act apart from other penal consequences under law.”

The perusal of the facts of the case explicitly reveals that, deceased victim/prisoner was handcuffed during his treatment at the hospital. The directions of the Supreme Court in above quoted case were outrightly violated and the human rights of the deceased victim were infringed. The department also accepted the negligence and ADG, Prisons suspended a Jail warden in this regard. In these circumstances, the Commission directs to issue notice under sec.-18 of the PHR Act,1993 to the Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh as to why the Commission should not grant monetary compensation of Rs. 25,000/- (Rupees Twenty Five Thousand) to the NOK of the deceased prisoner Babu Ram Pradhan.

Response within 06 weeks.”

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