ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed all the provinces to submit their replies and objections, if any, on the report of Federal Ombudsman to examine the systematic failure in the administration of prisons.

The top court also observed that all the home secretaries and IGs prisons should also be present in the top court on the next date of hearing fixed for July 11.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan took a suo motu case of miserable condition of women in jails for hearing.

The court in May had ordered all district and session judges throughout Pakistan to inspect jails falling within their districts and submit their reports before Federal Ombudsman for its examination and comments thereupon.

Hafiz Ahsan Khokhar on behalf of Federal Ombudsman submitted the report before the bench and stated that reports of 80 district and session judges were analysed.

He stated that the total prisons in the country were 98 wherein 78,160 prisoners were detained against the total sanctioned strength of 56,353.

He further stated that 25,195 were convicted prisoners, 48,780 were under-trial prisoners and 4,688 condemned prisoners.

He further stated that 1955 women were currently in jail including under trial and convicted adding that 1225 prisoners were juvenile.

Chief justice observed that during his visit he witnessed the children of women prisoners in jail. He questioned whether it was suitable to keep these children with the criminals.

He further asked as to what will happen to the education and grooming of these children under such environment.

Chief justice further observed that he had information some of the female prisoners involved in drugs consumption.

Khokhar responded that there were ten recommendations by the Ombudsman and requested the bench for directions to constitute two Committees for improvement of life of prisoners in Jails especially for Children, Women and Destitute / Resource-less Prisoners and the other committee for ensuring that District Oversight Committees are constituted to monitor the implementation of top court’s order in their respective Districts and to submit deficiencies, if any to the respective Home Department / IG Prisons.

“These Committees should consist of members from the Civil Society, Bars, Education and Health Sectors, who have proven track record of significant contributions for improvement of life of the prisoners,” he added.

He further stated that Ministry of Interior and Provincial Home / Prison Departments may be directed to appoint Senior Officers to act as a Focal Person to enable surprise visits of the above said Committees.

However, chief justice remarked that what purpose these visits would serve. He questioned who would ascertain as to what could be done through these visits.

He further observed that the implementation could be done either by provinces or by federal ombudsman. The top court directed the provinces to file their replies or objections on the report by Friday.

Punjab’s District & Session Judges, submitted to Ombudsman, recommended that additional barracks may be constructed to cope up with the issue of overcrowding and seepage in washrooms should be controlled along with installation of electric water coolers.

It further recommended that the procedure for timely shifting of seriously ailing prisoners to Hospitals for treatment should be simplified, repair of Old Female Sections should be carried out, computer labs for juvenile prisoners and books for jail library should be provided and X-Ray plant for medical treatment should be provided and appointment of Medical Officers should be ensured.

It also recommended for introduction of formal education/ religious education and skill courses in professions such as tailoring, electrician, plumber, beauty courses for women and embroidery work, provision of ambulance facility with construction of family rooms for periodic stay of the prisoners with their spouses.

Likewise, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa District and Session Judges in their observations stated that jail factories be made functional again in order to provide proper opportunities to the prisoners for productive activities and construction of sewerage system and repair of old female section may be undertaken.

It also recommended the provision of two platoons of FC with 02 Armed Personnel for beefing up the security of D.I.Khan being a risky area.

“The borstal institutions for rehabilitation and confinement of juveniles are not functional. The prisoners are not getting formal education and skill knowledge. The government Universities, Colleges and schools are not helping to provide education to the prisoners in the jails. There is a need to associate other institutions for improvement in jail conditions. There is a need to link Biometric system in jails with NADRA for maintaining the record of the prisoners.”

Sindh’s District and Session judges observed, “shortage of vehicles for the production of UTPs in courts, necessary formal education and skills to the prisoners, construction of washrooms and provision of drinking water facility to visitors.”

Sindh’s report also observed that assistance from philanthropists was not available everywhere and computerized data of prisoners was not connected with NADRA adding that provincial government should build a jail in every district headquarter.

“Every jail should have separate and independent portions for women and juvenile prisoners with sleeping space for every prisoner with adequate toilet and hygiene facility. Provincial Government should ensure that there are proper facilities in the visitor’s room in jail, including sufficient chairs, drinking water and toilet facility.”

“As a moral duty, Higher Education Commission of Pakistan should allocate every jail to nearby Universities or a major educational institution for providing free education to the prisoners, particularly women and children and impart skill training to them with the help of TEVTA and other skill training institutions. Libraries should also be upgraded by the concerned universities. No fee should be charged from the prisoners intending to appear in the examination.”

After examination of these reports, the Federal Ombudsman noticed the deficiencies of absence of Oversight Committees, shortage of staff in jails as well as over-crowding, lack of sanitation and health facilities, non-production of under trial prisoners in courts and lack of escort staff, lack of computerisation record of prisoners, lack of free legal aid for prisoners, inadequate civic facilities in Bakhshi Khanas, unnecessary detention in petty crimes, lack of educational and skill training facilities, lack of independent jail for every district that causes overcrowding and prisoner’s transportation problems.