Every pregnancy, kid in jails accounted for: Bengal govt to SC | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Every pregnancy, kid in jails accounted for: Bengal govt to SC

Feb 17, 2024 03:04 AM IST

Bengal govt informed the bench that women prisoners with children in jails were either pregnant upon arrival or during parole.

New Delhi Every pregnancy and child in state jails is accounted for, and there are “no unexplained pregnancies” in the prisons, the West Bengal government told the Supreme Court on Friday, refuting reports that suggested women prisoners were getting pregnant inside prison facilities in the state.

A view of the Supreme Court of India (SCI) building, in New Delhi (ANI)
A view of the Supreme Court of India (SCI) building, in New Delhi (ANI)

The West Bengal government submitted before a bench of justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah that in all cases of children lodged with their mothers inside jails, women prisoners were either already pregnant when they were brought to the jails or got pregnant while they were out on parole or bail.

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“While there are 181 children lodged inside jails with their mothers as of February 8, every single child is accounted for...in all cases, the women entered the jail with their children and in some others, they were detected to be pregnant at the time of their entry,” senior counsel Meenakshi Arora stated.

In response to a question from the bench, Arora said that there were no examples of unexplained pregnancy in the West Bengal jails, adding there were CCTV cameras installed across the jails to monitor all activities.

The counsel for the West Bengal government was addressing the court’s concerns regarding reports that women prisoners are getting pregnant inside jails of West Bengal, and that 196 babies are currently staying in prison facilities.

On February 9, the top court had asked senior advocate Gauarv Agrawal, who has been helping out the court as an amicus curiae in a case relating to prison reforms, to enquire into the matter.

Citing the information received from the ADG & IG, Correctional Services of West Bengal, Agrawal earlier this week filed an application stating that in the last four years, 62 babies were born inside jails across West Bengal and 181 children are currently staying with their mothers in different prison facilities. Agrawal’s application stated that the majority of incarcerated women were already pregnant when they were brought to the jails, and in other cases, they had been freed on parole or bail and returned pregnant.

The top court had decided to intervene in the matter while referring to the related proceedings before the Calcutta high court on February 8, when the high court was informed by advocate Tapas Kumar Bhanja, who was appointed amicus curiae by the court in November 2017 in a case on conditions of prisons, that women inmates lodged in various prisons of West Bengal were getting pregnant while in custody.

Placing two notes before the high court, Bhanja said: “It is interesting to note that women prisoners, while in custody, are getting pregnant. Subsequently babies are born in the prison. At present, 196 babies are staying in different prisons of West Bengal.” The amicus suggested a prohibition on the entry of male employees of prisons into the enclosures of women prisoners. Bhanja’s note did not specify how many such women prisoners were pregnant at the time of entry into prisons and if they were allowed interim bail or parole.

Asked by the bench if certain pan-India directions could be issued, the amicus suggested the appointment of a senior woman judicial officer in each district to assess the available security measures in women’s jails, ensuring availability of sufficient women personnel for the security and welfare of women prisoners and their routine health checkups.

The bench then sought responses from the Centre and all states, agreeing to examine if the committee appointed by the top court by an order on January 30 should also include a woman judicial officer and superintendents of women jails “so that aspects particularly for women lodged in jail is adequately addressed” and that “a fair assessment of available security measures, hygiene measures and health care infrastructure and facility for children in jails and barracks in each district” could be made.

The bench has been hearing a suo motu petition titled “Inhuman conditions in Prisons” in which the court monitors various aspects of prison reforms, including the number of jails, sanctioned and actual capacity of prisoners, and pending proposals by the Centre and states to create more jails.

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