The Delhi High Court recently has issued a direction for the compliance and enforcement of Section 6 of the Delhi Prison Act, 2000. By the new direction, the Government of Delhi is to appoint a law officer in all the 16 jails, in Delhi.
The direction emanated from the public interest Petition filed by Advocate Amit Sahni, an activist. The Petitioner had prayed the Delhi High Court to ensure the enforcement and compliance of section 6 of the Act.
Section 6 mandates that law officers should be appointed for every jail. The said law officers will be responsible for supervising all legal matters, and ensuring that every convict gets access to timely free legal aid. The law officers will also appear in court along with the counsel representing the government. The law officers are also expected to file daily reports on the outcomes of court cases.
The Petitioner drew the Court’s attention to the fact that at the time of the Petition, in all the 16 jails in Delhi, no law officer had been appointed, neither was a law officer appointed in the prison headquarters. Rather, within August 2016 – February, 2019, an officer, equated with the rank of a superintendent, was the one handling the legal affairs of the 16 jails in Delhi.
The Petitioner also pointed out that due to the overcrowded nature of the jails, there was urgent need for law officers, to aid better administration and help inmates get access to legal aid.
In response to the petition, the Respondents, Delhi Government and Director General (Prisons), stated that actions had been initiated to create the post of law officers in each central jail.
In view of their response, Justice D.N. Patel and Justice C. Hari Shankar, directed the respondent to complete the procedure for appointment within a period of 12 weeks, and appoint law officers in a timely manner to ensure that inmates get access to timely free legal aid