The Orissa High Court has issued various directions aimed at improving the condition of Jails in the State. These directions inter alia provide for more ambulances in the prison department and direct District Legal Services Authorities to undertake unannounced visits to jails.

The bench of Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice G. Satapathy gave the directions while dealing with a PIL concerning the conditions of jail in the State.

Senior Advocate Gautam Misra is the Amicus Curiae in this case and Debakanta Mohanty, Additional Government Advocate appeared for the State.

Overcrowding of Prisons

The Court noted that the affidavit of the Prisons Department indicated that in Jajpur sub-jail, the extent of overcrowding has been reduced from 77% to 48%. The Court observed that the reduction of the overcrowding percentage was seen in most sub-jails except the sub-jail, Malkangiri where it is gone up from 37% to 45%.

The Court takes note of the above submissions and expects that the as a result, the overcrowding in the Malkangiri sub-jail should reduce considerably by the next date.”, the Court noted.

Furnishing of bail bonds by prisoners

The Court noted that the note of the Amicus Curiae pointed out that from the reports submitted by the District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs) it is seen that as many as 45 prisoners are unable to exit from the respective prisons on bail because they have been unable to furnish bail bonds.

The Court directed “The Secretaries of the DLSAs of Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Balasore, Bargarh, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Keonjhar, Nabarangpur shall take immediate steps to file appropriate applications in the respective criminal Courts to facilitate the early release of such prisoners…”

Mental Health of Prisoners

As regards filling the posts of Psychiatric Social Workers (PSWs) and Clinical Psychologists, the Court was informed that advertisement will be issued very soon for filling up such posts.

The Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of Odisha informed the Court that the vacancies in the post of Jail Medical Officers are expected to be filled up by the end of May, 2023.

Emergency response facility

The Court noted that 20 ambulances provided thus far have already been allocated to the most crowded jails and sub-jails. The Court issued a direction to the Home Department to ensure that at least 10 more ambulances are provided to the Prisons Department for use in the jails and sub-jails.

The Court was also informed that the proposal for restructuring of the prisons is under ‘active consideration of the Government’. The Court directed the Additional Chief Secretary of Home Department to place before the Court by the next date the decision of the Government on the restructuring proposal.

The Court further directed “All the Secretaries of the DLSAs are directed to undertake within the next two months unannounced visits to the respective jails and sub-jails in their jurisdiction and submit reports to this Court with a copy to the learned Amicus Curiae. These reports positively be filed before 31st May, 2023.”

Cause Title- Krushna Prasad Sahoo v. State of Odisha & Ors.

Click here to read/download Order