A recent study by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) — which began with a right to information (RTI) application to the Alwar District Prison in October 2011, but later went beyond to look at the court production data of all districts of Rajasthan in 2013 — suggests that the problem of physical production, especially due to the shortage of police escorts is systemic. Carried out with the cooperation of the Prisons Department, and titled “The Missing Guards: A Study of Rajasthan’s Court Production System”, CHRI has analyzed the production of inmates in court for all the Central and District jails in Rajasthan. Excerpts:
On any given day, approximately a third of prisoners in the state are not taken to the court on date stipulated. In Jodhpur and Bharatpur Central jails, the proportion of non-production is as high as 56 and 51 per cent, respectively. In contrast to this irregularity, Pratapgarh showed 100 per cent production.
In the last 20 years the prison population has risen by 150 per cent but the number of escort personnel has increased by 4 per cent and just 40 new escort personnel have been appointed in this time in the State.
In Alwar, in 41% occasions, inmates were not produced in court when ordered. On the occasions where they were not produced, in 70 % cases, the reason was shortage of police escorts. As a practice, the police department never gave written responses citing reasons for not providing the requisite escorts. The Alwar district jail uses a readymade rubber stamp mentioning shortage of police escort as the reason for non-production. The stamped production warrant is sent to the court instead of the prisoner and accepted by the court as a reason for automatically giving a new date.
In 2010, Rajasthan had 834 courts in 33 districts. There were about 11,000 undertrials in 96 jails. On an average, 2500 inmates were to be produced in court every day. In order to produce these inmates daily, the sanctioned capacity of police escorts was 874. In 2010, 4 heavy and 18 medium vehicles were available in the Prison Department. A maximum of only 620 prisoners could be taken to courts by these vehicles. While the police must provide the personnel for escorting prisoners, the jail authorities must provide the vehicles.
All jails in Rajasthan maintain a daily record of the number of inmates that are required to be produced in court and the number actually taken to court. CHRI, with the cooperation of the Rajasthan Prison Department, collated and compiled this data across eight central jails, 23 of 25 district jails and two women’s reformatories for the period July to September 2013.
In order to understand the daily reality of providing police escorts across the state, three months’ data was averaged to give daily figures. The daily average of the number of prisoners required to be produced, and the number actually being brought to the court was worked out on the basis of 71 court working days between July and September 2013.
The Jail Committee Report of 2010 puts the average daily requirement at 2500 prisoners to be taken to court. The daily average (over 71 days) analyzed by CHRI worked out to 1618 prisoners. However, with 874 sanctioned police escorts, on average only 1083 inmates were produced daily. The average cumulative non-production for the same time-line is 33 per cent. This however reveals only half the picture. Uneven and irrational deployment of personnel and their diversion to other duties beyond escorting prisoners depending on the policing priorities of the day is another cause for the high rates of non-production.
Escorts are not deployed proportionately. Amongst Central Jails, Jaipur and Kota illustrate the maximum mismatch of escorts to production needs. Jaipur at 43 per cent has the lion’s share of escorts but sends only 28 per cent of all central jail prisoners required to go to the court. Of the total undertrials in central jails, 18 per cent are to be produced from Kota. But only 5 per cent of the strength is sanctioned for the district.
While escorts are allocated proportionately in most districts, Nagore, Pali, Churu and Chittorgarh have disproportionately higher allocation whereas Dhaulpur and Jhalawar have disproportionately lower allocation compared to the productions ordered by the court from their jails.
The state has just 848 escorts for 811 courts, thus an abysmal court-escort ratio of 1.05:1. In the 8 district central jails with district jails, the situation is far worse with the ratio even below one, as 333 escorts operate under 384 courts. With productions distributed across multiple courts, for the production of a single inmate, a separate guard would be required, thus off-setting the standard ratio.
In the last 20 years, the population of Rajasthan has increased by 55 per cent. IPC Crimes in the state have increased by 47 per cent. The prison population has also increased by 150 per cent in this time period. However, the above table clearly shows that the escort strength has increased by less than 50 personnel (4 per cent) in these 20 years. While crime and the number of inmates have increased in the last two decades, the infrastructural mechanisms have clearly lagged far behind thus creating a major gap in the system.
The Rajasthan Police Department have repeatedly initiated efforts to re-assess escort strength and suggested an increase in the force. A letter from the ADGP’s office dated December 31, 2010, addressed to the Home Department shared the concern of inadequacy of the available strength to escort inmates to the court. The letter also mentioned that the police authorities have analyzed the average number of inmates to be produced daily in court, and, based on the norms, evaluated the number of escorts which need to be sanctioned.
The financial implications for this were also arrived at. In a letter from the ADGP’s office dated 14 May 2013 addressed to the Home Department, the Police Department again brought up this issue. In another letter from the ADGP’s office dated May 16, 2013 addressed to the SHRC’s office, the authorities cited multiple occasions where letters were written to the Home Department for sanctioning of escorts, but none of them were acted upon.
Top ten districts with highest non-production are Jaipur Jodhpur, Kota, Bharatpur, Alwar, Ajmer, Bikaner, Jhalawar, Dholpur and Sikar. These ten districts account for 75% of the total non-production in the state.
The non-production in the number of inmates was highest in the case of Jaipur Central Jail and in terms of percentages in the case of Jodhpur Central Jail. When summoned by the court in May 2013 to explain the lack of timely productions, the jail authorities of Jodhpur Central Jail analyzed the gap between their requests for escorts and the actual numbers provided. They found that over a two-month period – April and May 2013 – only a third of the prisoners who were to be produced in court could actually be sent. The majority had to miss their court dates, some of them repeatedly.
CHRI’s study of a few months later confirmed that the shortfall continued. From July to September 2013 only 44 per cent of the inmates who had to be produced in court could actually be taken to court.
Bharatpur and Jaipur Central Jails had similar high rates of non-production. Sri Ganganagar was the only Central Jail with low levels of non-production. This can be attributed to the relatively high number of escorts sanctioned in Sri Ganganagar. In order to escort on an average 38 inmates every day, 33 escorts are sanctioned in the district.
Districts jails at Pratapgarh, Barmer and Jaisalmer have done reasonably well to keep the proportion of nonproduction at under 5 per cent, with Pratapgarh having zero production gap.
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