- A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Madan B Lokur on 26 February has asked the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to look into the issue of overcrowding of prisons and furnish figures before it regarding the population in the jails where occupancy was over 150 per cent as on 31st December 2017.
- The apex court also asked the amicus curiae in the matter, to look into the issue of rehabilitation and welfare of women prisoners as well as their children, including the aspect of education of such kids.
- The bench asked the NALSA Director Surinder S Rathi to ascertain through the member secretaries of the state legal services authorities, the number of vacant posts lying in major prisons in all states and union territories.
- The Supreme court said the issues related to standard operating procedure for Under Trial Review Committees (UTRCs) and responses received from states and union territories on open jails would be dealt by it on the next date of hearing on 27th March.
What is Under Trial Review Committees (UTRCs)?
- The Social Justice Bench of the Supreme Court on 24th April, 2015 had directed to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure that the Under Trial Review Committee is established within one month in all districts and the next meeting of that Committee in each district should be held on or about 30th June, 2015.
- A UTRC is set up in every district which deliberates and recommends the release of undertrial prisoners and convicts who have undergone their sentences or are entitled to be released from jail due to bail or remission granted to them.
What is NALSA?
- The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society.
- The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the Senior most Hon’ble Judge, Supreme Court of India is the Executive Chairman of the Authority.
- Presently, NALSA is housed at Jam Nagar House, New Delhi.
- Background of NALSA: Towards fulfilling the Preambular promise of securing to all the citizens, Justice – social, economic and political, Article 39 A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity. Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law. In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted by the Parliament, which came into force on 9th November, 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society.