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A matter of great shame. Judicial processes are teriibly slow and convoluted. It benefits the criminal wonderfully. Innocents especially the poor are always at the receiving end.
A Subramani | TNN
Chennai: That any arrested person is entitled to walk out of jail once he obtains bail and furnishes surety to the satisfaction of a magistrate, is common knowledge.
But do you know that more than 40 persons are languishing at Puzhal Central Prison-II though they have got bail but are unable to find persons to stand surety for them? Also, do you know that one such less-privileged prisoner — P Muthu of Kumananchavadi near Poonamallee — died of cancer after remaining in prison for nearly three years?
While Muthu and at least 43 others remained behind bars because they had no one to stand surety for them, 91 others are in Puzhal-II for more than a year as the police concerned had not filed a chargesheet as yet.
“Most of them are petty offenders, and are ready to plead guilty. Even if convicted, they would be sentenced only for a few months. But, unless the police file a chargesheet, the magistrate cannot dispose of the matter,” said a prison official. “Delaying chargesheet is a way of delaying their release,” he added.
Puzhal Prison-II has 116 inmates who are in jail for more than 90 days but less than one year. There are 43 others who are staying in jail between 60 days and 90 days. “In regular crimes, if the police fail to lay chargesheet in 60 days, the accused could avail the statutory bail benefit and walk out of jail,” said special public prosecutor for human rights cases, V Kannadasan.
The Puzhal-II is home to about a dozen inmates facing charges under Section 75 (public nuisance) of City Police Act and Section 7(1)(a) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. They are inside for periods ranging 3-4 months, in spite of the fact that if convicted they would be sentenced to serve only a couple of weeks in jail.
“Personal liberty is the most sacred of all fundamental rights,” said Kannadasan, adding, “prison authorities cannot be blamed for this sorry state of affairs.” He said that the data itself was being compiled only as per the directions of the director-general of police (prisons) R Natraj, to be sent to the legal services authority for redressal.
Even in the case of Muthu, the prison authorities took note of his poor health condition and forwarded his request to be sent out on own bond to the jurisdictional court. As there was no response either from the court or from legal aid authorities, he was admitted in the Government Royapettah Hospital in February 2009. Till his death on April 9, he did not get any help, lament prison staff.
He was arrested by the Poonamallee police on charges of preparing to commit robbery (crime no. 735/2006) in 2006, ahead of the assembly elections. “His three-year incarceration was meaningful in one sense. It exposed the insensitivity of the judiciary and ineffectiveness of the legal aid system,” said Kannadasan.