Baramulla Jail Visit …4.11.2016
District Jail Baramulla
conducted by a team of lawyers from the
High Court Bar Association
04th November 2016
Prompted by the newspaper reports of unrest and use of excess force on inmates the District Jail Baramulla and consequent hunger strike by the inmates prompted the High Court Bar Association to visit this jail.
A team of lawyers comprising of Advocate Arshad Andrabi, Ad Bashir Sidiq , Ad Anwar ul Islam Shaheen , Ad Bilal Ahmad Bhat and Ad Nasir Qadri visited the District Jail Baramulla on 4th November 2016.
The jail staff including the Superintendent Mrs Rajni Sehgal were cooperative and facilitated the visit of the lawyers team and their interaction with the inmates. It was reported that on the fateful day of 1st November 2016, the Superintendent was on leave as she had to visit her home in connection with the Diwali festival.
After looking at the condition of the jail and interacting with the inmates , It was observed that the inmates in this jail are feeling frustrated and are under mental stress due to prevailing circumstances and the consequent apathy of the administration. According to statistics displayed on the notice board , there are 77 under trial prisoners including 7 females. The number of militancy related under trials is shown as 17. Besides there are 16 detenues [ under preventive laws/PSA] out of which 2 are females. In this way there are a total 129 inmates in this small jail out of which 9 are females. This jail is one of the overcrowded jails which lacks most of the the basic facilities.
As per the facts revealed in the interviews of detainees and discussions held with jail authorities it was a surprise to learn that no inmate has been taken to any court since 7th May 2016. The main reason being that the jail authorities are at the mercy of District Police to provide escort to take detneues to the court premises on due dates, but due to lack of escort facilities the presence of the detainees in the courts on due dates becomes impossible and their trials get prolonged. This situation has resulted not only in a failure of justice and a denial of basic rights of citizens to a fair and speedy trial but also to a frustration amongst the inmates.
The incident ; It was on 1st November 2016 at around 11 AM, the inmates in Barrack No;7 noticed that the condition of one Abdul Latief Katoo deteriorated and he started to sweat he complained of pain in the chest . Doctors have diagnosed him as a case of Chronic Hypertensive Cardiovascular disturbed condition. Besides he was found to have deranged lipid profile and problems related to prostrate. The inmates carried him to the main gate and called the sentries on duty and implored that some medical treatment for the sick may be arranged. But there response was rude and inhuman. This increased the panic and anger among the inmates and the attitude of the sentries on duty grew more and more harsh. Seeing the worsening condition of their sick friend the inmates started shouting slogans and resorted to protests. The officials on duty called the local police authorities and soon a contingent of police from SOG arrived in the jail and they upon entering the jail started thrashing the inmates ruthlessly. According to the inmates the police raiding party entered the jail times and thrashed all the detenues mercilessly resulting in serious injuries to the inmates. One 78 old person shown his broken hand and another youngman is undergoing treatment for head injuries.
Despite direction from the Hon’ble High Court no posts of Medical Officers are created in the District jails. A doctor from the local hospital is put on call and is asked to take care of the medical problems of the inmates. Again the problem of Ambulances in the jails and lack of transport facilities with escort to carry a sick inmate to the nearest medical facility has triggered the present situation.
The under trials who had interaction with Bar team were :
1. Nissar Ahmad Dar [Ameer Zindan] He is an undertrial languishing in this jail for last three years. His case being pending in the court of CJM Sopore the main reason for the delay in trial is non availability of police escort. According to jail staff his behaviour has remained satisfactory and due to his polite attitude and reasonableness he is appointed as ‘Ameer e zindan’/ Reprsentative of the inmates .
He narrated that on 1st November 2016, at around 11 AM , the condition of one detenue in Barrack No:7 worsened and he shown signs of collapsing . He was showing signs of an heart attack as he complained of pain in chest and was sweating. The inmates carried him to the main gate of the jail and informed the staff there about his condition. The attitude of staff was non responsive and despite insistence of the detainees they were not willing to take any action . After imploring for about half an hour ,the inmates started to get panicky and restless. The wanted some medical aid to be provided to the sick so that he can be saved. Feeling helpless and in desperation they started shouting slogans. This aggravated the situation further and the jail staff instead of having a compassionate view of the matter brought in more reinforcement from local police and men form SOG /Task Force wing entered the jail and started thrashing the inmates indiscriminately. All the inmates were given a beating and most of them got injured. The police party attacked the jail three times and ransacked and removed all the items of necessity collected over the period in this jail by the inmates . This was done as a measure of punishment . The fridge ,TV, blankets , bedding , food items and untensils including cups ,plates and spoons etc were all removed from the barracks leaving the inmates without food and shelter. The helpless inmates in protest could go on indefinite hunger strike which has caused among the society as the matter was reported in press also.
The inmates want inquiry into the incident and restoration of all the facilities required of a standard jail meant to lodge political detenues and prisoners of conscience. Besides , they want withdrawal of cases against them on this incident and punishment of all erring police /CRPF officials involved in use of excessive force against helpless inmates under incarceration.
2. Gh Mustaffa from Baramulla ladged in Barack No: 7, Is an 78 year old man who has retired as a senior officer in Education Deptt; He after spending his whole life as an Educationist has retired from the post of Principal District institute of Educational Training . Presently , he is detained under PSA for the charges of being a member of Tehreek Hurriyat . He spends most of the time in jail while reading cipprinis a 8th class student and was arrested for stone pelting and has been kept in preventive books and teaching the inmates. He has brought of number of books from his home and is also taking advantage of the collection of the books available in the jail library. He has been detained as a political vendetta and despite being old and infirm has been treated badly during the detention. Besides suffering from the ailments associated with old age he is diagnosed as a case of ‘ cysts in both kidneys, Hepatitis + , Prostrate enlargement and hypertension etc. Doctors have referred him to SKIMS Soura for treatment but for the lack of arrangement of escort he is not getting treatment. This old man is taken to local hospital in handcuffs but despite medical advice he is not taken to SKIMS for specialized treatment. With the result , his condition may worsen at any time. Recalling the horrors of incident on 1st November 2016, he corroborated the story that when the condition of one Abdul Latief became worst and the inmates feared that he may collapse , he was brought to the main gate and the sentries were requested to arrange for his medical treatment. The attitude of Sentries was harsh , inhuman and brutal. They used foul language against the inmates which aggravated the situation. The inmates shouted slogans. There was commotion and local police came in a beat the inmates ruthlessly. The third figure of the left hand of this respectable old man was broken during physical beating. All the goods and untensils were taken away from the barracks. He gave a list of 25 sets books snatched by the police which included his numerous personal books . He could not understand the logic of snatching the books and reading material from the barrack by the SOG personnel. He requested for their return and arranging more and more books to help the inmates to utilize time in a better and useful way. Such efforts should be in fact encouraged. Action needs to be taken against such erring police men who have exceeded their jurisdiction and committed excesses of beating the inmates and looting their belongings and reading materials. The goods confiscated in the barracks include utensils , blankets, blowers, mirror, clock , curtains food material , frying pans, spoons, plates , buckets , water tank, Tables and chairs. From his statement it was inferred that the police and jail authorities were in a punitive mood at the pre trial stage when the inmates are to be treated as innocents until some guilt is proved.
The senior citizen inmate narrated that on the fateful day the SOG men led by Dy.S.P Shafqat , SHO Khaild entered the jail three times and thrashed all the inmates ruthlessly. They threatened and abused them with life threats and threat of eliminating them as they had already killed so many people.
This kind of attitude speaks of a colonial mind set and is against the concept of rule of law and human dignity.
3. Faisal Ahmad from Maisuma Srinagar is another detenue who is undergoing detention under PSA for third consecutive time. He is lodged in jail since 1st March 2016. On 4th November 2014 I,e on the day of visit he was brought back from hospital when the visiting team was present in the jail. He narrated the incident that when three inmates were taken to local hospital under the custody of escorting constables requisitioned by the jail authorities. The Doctors advised administration of glucose drips and they were admitted and put on beds. Suddenly some DySP Aamir appeared in the hospital and without any excuse started to abuse the under trials brought for treatment. They were threatened , harassed and tortured inside the hospital when they were undergoing treatment . The attitude of the Dy.S.P is un understandable and only speaks of the arrogance of the police in present charged atmosphere in Kashmir.
4. Mehrajuddin Nanda an undertrial has sustained head injury in the incident of beating on 1st November 2016. He requested for treatment and on 4th November 2016, he was taken to the local hospital under escort. Doctors after examining him admitted him in hospital and advised an X-Ray of skull. When intravenous glucose was being administered to him the Dy S.P Task Force Aamir barged in to hospital from nowhere and started abusing and threatening the undertrials brought for tratemtment to hospital . he hurled verbal abuses and threatened the inmates of dire consequences of physical elimination. The matter was brought in the notice of the Superintendent Jail and requires thorough investigation and prompt action. He also complained about the role of one constable Mohammad Shafi from CIK posted in the Jail and one Latif Ahmad Najar who are indulging in provoking , harassing and intimidating the inamtes without any authority.
The issues were discussed with the Jail Superintendent and she was made aware about the situation while interviews were conducted in her presence. She promised to take appropriate action and restore the facilities snatched from the inmates. On her assurances and at the persuation of the Bar members the inmates promised to break their fast and maintain cordial relations with the jail authorities.
It was made clear to one an all that the Hon’ble Supreme Court in a number of judgments has laid down three broad principles for treatment of prisoners,
i. A prisoner ,on imprisoned ,does not become a lesser human being.
ii. A person in prison is entitled to all human rights within the limitations of imprisonment
iii. There is no justification in aggravating the suffering already inherent in the process of incarceration.
Protection from arbitrary arrest and detention is a foundational principle of law all across the world. Judicial Control of executive interference with personal liberty in one of the foundational principles of a democratic society, which helps to minimize the risk of arbitrariness and helps to secure rule of law. Right to be Tried within a reasonable time is a basic right of a citizen and it applied to the condition of detenues who remain under trial for long periods of time. They are taken to court on due dates due lack of logistic facilties like transport, escort etc . Another species of detainees in our jails are those who are taken into custody under preventive laws. Courts have found these detention as illegal ,arbitrary and harsh. These prisoners have a right to challenge their detention orders on various grounds but to inadequate legal aid are not able to defend their rights. The right to access a lawyer ,right not to be held incommunicado and non existence of sufficient evidence to charge and the condition of the prisoners in detention. The prisoners right to compensation for wrongful detention and illegal confinement should be another area of concern to the Bar members. The extent to which safeguards attaching to the detention are increasingly being sought to be circumvented affecting individual freeedoms is also a concern for the Bar members.