The Delhi High Court was recently informed that several women prisoners in Tihar Jail are undergoing trial for offences such as rape under Section 376(1); kidnapping with rape; gang rape; kidnapping with gang rape and voyeurism under Section 354(c) of the Indian Penal Code.

The submissions were made by Prof. Mrinal Satish and Dr. Aparna Chandra from National Law University, Delhi, who are assisting the Court in a suo motu Petition initiated pursuant to a letter received from Supreme Court Judge, Justice Kurian Joseph.

Justice Joseph had received an appeal from 612 women prisoners from Tihar Jail, complaining of overcrowding in Jail No. 6 where they were lodged, delay in disposal of their cases and their non-release on bail if they are unable to fulfill conditions of bail bonds. They had also brought to his notice the fact that kids aged six years or more were being kept away from their mothers.

He had then “earnestly” requested the Chief Justice of the High Court “to take up the matter appropriately so that the cry for justice is answered in accordance with law with the promptitude with which a mother responds to the cry of her child”.

During a recent hearing, the Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar was apprised of “certain sensitive issues” regarding women prisoners lodged in Jail No. 6.

Prof. Satish then pointed out that charging of these prisoners with offences such as rape _“is completely contrary to law”._ This information, he submitted, has been ascertained from the charge-sheets available with prisoners or warrants issued to the Jail by the Court.

In the light of these submissions, the Court opined that the two Professors should be given access to the records of the Trial Courts, observing, “Time is sought to place details of these prisoners and the cases in which they have been implicated in order to facilitate this court to pass a meaningful order in this case. Let such information be filed before the next date of hearing.”

The matter will now be heard on 15 January.