The Supreme Court today requested a committee on prison reforms, which was constituted to examine several aspects and give recommendations on issues including overcrowding in jails, to submit its final report within six months.

A Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice B R Gavai passed the order while hearing an application filed by the Centre seeking a direction to the Supreme Court Committee on Prison Reforms, headed by former Apex Court judge Justice (retd) Amitava Roy, to submit a final report within three months.

Referring to the September 2018 order of the Apex Court which had requested the committee to complete the collection of data and information and make appropriate recommendations and submit the same to the Court preferably within 12 months, Attorney General K K Venugopal said they have requested in the application that the final report be submitted within three months.

Advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who is assisting the Apex Court as an amicus curiae in the matter, referred to his note filed in the matter and said six months would be reasonable.

Having gone through the note and after hearing the Attorney General for India, we request the committee to submit its final report within a period of six months from today. List the matter thereafter, the bench said.

It noted that the amicus has submitted a note bringing to the notice of the Court the difficulties faced by the committee in finalising the report.

At the outset, Agrawal told the Bench that when the Apex Court had passed the order in 2018, it had given one year to the committee to give the report.

But, as we all know, there has been a delay for reasons which are beyond control so the Union has filed this application, he said.

Venugopal said, "we have made a request to your lordships that the final report be submitted within a period of three months".

The Bench asked the amicus how much time would be taken to submit the final report.

"Six months would be reasonable. I think by September 30, if your lordships will give time. Because we have indicated timelines. Some reports are under preparation which would be submitted in two months from today and some reports within four to six months", the amicus said.

The Apex Court observed that it would give six months.

This application is filed on behalf of the Union of India seeking a direction to the committee constituted by this Court on prison reforms to expedite and submit a final report within a period of three months, the bench noted in its order.

Advocate Tarini Kamakhya Nayak, representing Meghalaya, also appeared in the matter.

The Apex Court is hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions in 1,382 prisons across India after it had taken suo motu (on its own) cognizance of a letter written way back in 2013.

The committee, in one of its reports filed earlier, had suggested probable directions which can be passed as remedial measures on the problems faced by prisons across the country.

"A total of 1,341 prisons are presently functional in India as on November 30, 2018...and the total population of prisoners in India as on November 30, 2018, is 4.68 lakh against the total sanctioned strength of 3.83 lakh," the report had said.

"From 2016 to 2018, the total prison population in India has increased by 8.2 per cent against an increase of 0.7 per cent in the prison sanctioned capacity," it had said.

To deal with overcrowding in jails, the report had also suggested various measures including that the Courts may be asked to use their "discretionary powers" and award sentences like "fine and admonition" if possible instead of sending the offenders to jails.

Prior to this, the Court had constituted a three-member committee, headed by Justice (retd) Roy, to look into jail reforms across India and make recommendations on several aspects, including overcrowding.

It had said the 'Supreme Court Committee on Prison Reforms' would also comprise Inspector General of Police of Bureau of Police Research and Development and Director General (Prisons) of Delhi's Tihar Jail.

It had earlier taken strong exception to overcrowding of jails across the country and said prisoners also have human rights and cannot be kept like "animals".

The Court had passed a slew of directions over unnatural deaths in jails and on prison reforms across India.

With PTI inputs