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Status of Jails in Punjab

Written by: Sarju Gupta - I am a research scholar,doing ph.d in law (Criminology), from GNDU, Amritsar. I' ve done B.A, LL.M
Constitutional Lawyers in India
Legal Service
  • 1. Conceptual Framework
    1.1 Meaning of Prison
    Goal or Jail or prison, the two forms of the word are due to the parallel dual forms in old Central and Norman respectively, 'jaiole' or 'jaole', and 'gaiole' or 'gayole'. The spelling 'jail' is used in American prisons, were first used in England for punishment during sixteenth century. Regarding the meaning of prison, there is no unanimity among the writers. According to the prevailing usage in India, the term 'jail' is a generic term which applies to penal institutions, housing both prisoners, awaiting trial and prisoners committed to sentences. Consequently, the jails perform the function of remand institutions and prisons. Prison, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a place, properly arranged and equipped for the reception of persons who by legal process recommitted to it for safe custody while awaiting trial for punishment.

    Punjab Police Chief, P.C. Dogra, recently put it, jails are emerging as the new co-ordination centers for militancy. Whatever may be the official definition of prison as jail, work house, reformatory, penitentiary, State prison, House of correction or whatever else, it is a place where the punishment of imprisonment is executed. The prison is the manifestation of people's tireless efforts, towards the discovery of curative and refractive process.

    2. Definitional Context
    Before the beginning of this chapter, some definitions regarding the jail administration or inmates, or jail officials, necessarily needed to be mentioned over hear. Moreover, the terms used during this project or dissertation would be clear from the given definitional context:
    1. Functioning
    2. Prison and jail
    3. Correction
    4. Life imprisonment

    Definitions of Terms
    2.1. Functioning
    The functioning of prisons includes policy planning, supervision, implementation of laws and rules and their operation in day-to-day working and lastly, their resultant impact on the prison population.

    2.2. Prison and Jail
    There is no distinction between these two terms in Punjab, as the same is understood in some Western countries. These terms are used inter changeably with the word Sudhar ghars. In Punjab, prison means any jail or place used permanently or temporarily under the general or special orders of Government for the detention of prisoners and includes all lands and buildings, appurtenant thereof. Jails or places of confinement are of seven kinds in the State of Punjab i.e. Central Jails, District Jails, Sub Jails, Female Jail, Open Air Agriculture Jail and Certified School.

    2.3. Correction
    Correction is a scientific approach for achieving the positive purpose of punishment i.e. reformation and rehabilitation. The focus of attention always remains on the prisoners, in order to reformulate his attitude and habits by adopting scientific methods and suitable programmes so that after release, he may lead the life of a law-abiding citizen.
    2.4. Life Imprisonment
    Life imprisonment means imprisonment for whole of the convict's natural life until remitted by the appropriate Government, after following the procedure as laid down in law.

    The purpose of this study is limited one i.e. firstly, to provide a fresh orientation approach to the problems of jail administration of Punjab, after evaluation of resent functioning and secondly, to suggest some reforms in order to prepare a base for the utilization of appropriate programmes and techniques, in making the administration of Punjab Jails effective, efficient and reformatory.

    3. Classification of Jails in Punjab
    There're mainly three types of jails:
    i. Central Jails
    ii. District Jails
    iii. Sub Jails

    3.1. Central Jails
    These are the jails, where life convicts and convicts, serving more than three years imprisonment are usually confined. They correspond to the maximum security jails of Western countries.

    There are main seven central jails in Punjab State i.e. Patiala, Bathinda, Ferozpur, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar and Ludhiana.

    3.2. District Jails
    These are the jails where convicts, undergoing sentences from six months to three years are confined. These can be called 'medium security prisons' in the terminology of European countries.

    In Punjab, there are five district jails at Nabha, Sangrur, Faridkot, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur.

    3.3. Sub Jails
    These are small jails, where mostly under-trials and short-term convicts, undergoing imprisonment for six months or less, are usually confined. In Punjab there are ten sub jails i.e. Fazilka, Moga, Mukatsar, Patti, Ropar, Barnala, Malerkotla, Phagwara, Dasuya and Pathankot.

    3.4. Other Jails
    3.4.1. Female Jail
    This is the place where female convicts, undergoing imprisonment are confined. There is one women jail; an independent jail of proper dimensions in the State of Punjab at Ludhiana.

    3.4.2. Borstal and Juvenile Jail
    It is such an institution which functions mainly under the provisions of the Borstal Act, where adolescent prisoners, from the age of 16 years to that of 21 years, are usually confined and where educational and industrial training subjected to such discipline is imparted to them, as may contribute to their reformation later on. There is one Borstal and Juvenile jail is at Ludhiana in Punjab.

    3.4.3. Open Air Agriculture Jails
    The open air agriculture jails are in fact, agricultural farms with minimum security. The prisoners with agricultural background, convicted for more than one year and selected by the Inspector General of prisons, on the basis of recommendations of the Jail Superintendents who had undergone of their imprisonment in a closed jail are confined there. The age and state of health and nature of crime is taken into consideration while transferring the prisoners to Open Air Agriculture jails. Two open air agriculture jails in Punjab are at Nabha and Kapurthala.

    3.4.4. Certified School
    It is a place of detention where children under the age of 16 years are kept. The school is under the control of Social Welfare Department and its working is governed by the provisions of the East Punjab Children Act, 1949.

    4. Punjab Jails: How Organized, Classified and Controlled
    The way and the provisions, according to which Punjab jails are being organized, classified and controlled has been provided in the chapter IV, III and Vth of Punjab jail manual 1996, respectively. It has been already mentioned in the chapter-2 of this dissertation.

    5. Administrative Staff
    At the helm of the Department, there is the Director General of prisons i.e. DGP, at Chandigarh. He exercises powers subject to the orders of State Government's general control and superintendence over all prisons, jails, Brostal and unfurnished houses in Punjab. He also controls the expenditure of the jail department; submit its annual budget to State Government etc.

    Further the Inspector General (IG) of prisons in Punjab, is appointed by the State Government. Then comes the rank of DIG of prisons i.e. Deputy Inspector-General of Prisons, AIG i.e. Assistant Inspector General of Punjab prisons. IG of Prisons is the executive head of the jail department. DIG and AIG are there to assist him, according to provisions prescribed in the Punjab jail manual.

    An officer, one for each 7 Central jails of the rank of jail superintendent of Punjab jails, appointed who manage the jail in all matters. Every district jail has also a jail superintendent. He has to obey the magistrate, respecting the prison. In addition to these officers, there are Deputy Superintendents, Sub Assistant Superintendents jail, Head Warders, Matrons, Clerk and Class IV staff etc., as mentioned by State government from time to time. In case of jail superintendent's absence, his duties and powers are exercised by the Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Superintendent.

    The jail superintendent visits the jail twice, in each working day and also whenever special circumstances demand. Chief probation and welfare officers are also there. The Deputy Superintendent performed the duties, imposed on them by the jail superintendent or Jailer.

    5.1 Warder Establishment
    The following grades of the warders are the establishment of Punjab Jail Department:

    5.1.1 Male Cell
    The following categories of male officers are in the department:-
    i. Head Warder
    ii. Assistant Head Warder
    iii. Warder

    The head warder is the head of the warder establishment in male wing. He is responsible for his work and for carrying out of all rules, relating to him and to the guarding of the jail. He assists the jail superintendent at unlocking and locking up. He keeps the attendance of prisoners and the register of warder establishment. He is the incharge of maintenance of jail cells, sanitary conditions, water supply etc. and also of the whole arms, ammunition; uniforms and equipment of every description of the warder establishment and of the accounts thereto, and his subordinates are there to obey and assist him.

    5.1.2. Female Cell
    i. Head Matron
    ii. Assistant Head Matron
    iii. Matron

    They perform duties of Jailer, Head Warder, Assistant Head Warder and Warders, respectively. The Head Matron has the entire care and superintendence of the women prisoners. She is present at the opening of wards and mustering of women prisoners every morning. She also checks the locking up and observes the presence of every prisoner inside the cell. During day, she has the custody of keys of wards, cells and yards in which women prisoners are confined and at night, after locking up, she hands over them to the Jailer. She also observed that wards, toilets, bathrooms are thoroughly cleaned and the women prisoners are clean in their persons and clothes etc. In women cells in Punjab jails, the Head Matron keeps a register in the prescribed from in which she records all occurrences of the importance within the department.

    5.2. Gatekeepers
    The person acting as gate keeper or any other officer of the prison, examines anything carried in or out of the prisons, may stop and search or caused to be searched any person, suspected of bringing any prohibited article into or out of the prison and if any article or prohibited activity be observed, gives immediate notice thereof, to the jail superintendent. He is under the general control of the jail superintendent. At present, the administrative set up of jails is headed by IG of Prisons who is the executive head of the Punjab Jails department. The DIG is assisted by AIG of prisons, senior superintendents, superintendents, deputy superintendents, welfare officers, a clerk, header warders and class IV staff. All the 7 central jails, 10 District Jails and sub jails are managed by departmental staff.

    6. Categorized Prisoners
    In jails in Punjab State, prisoners are categorized according to their nature of crime and the nature of sentence they given. They have given different treatments, according to the sentence they undergoing. The different categories of prisoners in Punjab jails are given following.

    1st Category
    Under trials
    Under trials prisoners are those who are under judicial remand. And the one time judicial remand is for 14 days. These prisoners are supposed to remain idle.

    2nd Category
    Convicts: Convicts are further divided in two categories, according to their sentence:
    i. Rigorous Imprisonment: The prisoners who are sentenced to rigorous imprisonment have to do labour for 8 hours daily in the jail.
    ii. Simple Imprisonment: They are just to remain idle as undertrials. But if they are willing to work and give written undertaking to work, they can work.

    3rd Category
    Condemned Prisoners: The condemned prisoners are awarded with death sentence. They are kept separate in the jails. In Gumtala Central Jail, Amritsar, there are six condemned prisoners and they are waiting for their execution since 14 years.

    4th Categories
    Inter Varies: Inter varies are those foreigner prisoners who are completed their provided sentence but are kept in Transit camp of jail, till their depository.

    6.1. Works Being Assigned To Prisoners
    The prisoners who are supposed to works in the jail during their imprisonment, do various different works in different fields i.e. in kitchen, agriculture, jail factory and other jobs or work, according to their education, qualification and social status i.e. to operate computer, to teach the classes in education block in jails etc.

    6.2. Wages
    Wages are of three categories, being provided to the prisoners in Punjab jails i.e.
    i. For Unskilled Prisoners - Rs. 8/- per day
    ii. Semi Skilled - Rs. 10/- per day
    iii. Skilled - Rs. 12/- per day
    Semi-skilled are supposed to work as helpers to the skilled and unskilled, in order to learn. The above wage rate has been fixed by Punjab Government.

    6.3 Remission
    Remission is given to the jail inmates time to time, regarding their good conduct sometimes and sometimes, in order to take rest from work or labour, they usually do in the jails. This is again of three types:
    6.3.1. Ordinary Remission
    It has been given to the convict who works for one month regularly. It is for 2 days for the good conduct and 2 to 3 days for work which can be maximize to 4 days
    6.3.2. Special Remission
    Special remission is given by the jail superintendent, IG or A.DGP The jail Superintendent is entitled to give 30 days remission to a prisoner in 1 year and IG or ADGP are entitled to award 60 days remission in 1 year.

    6.3.3. Government Remission
    This is generally granted by State Government. State Government can usually award 1 year's remission.

    6.4. Register
    In the jails in Punjab, they usually keep two registers in each jail i.e. register number 1 and register number 2. The register number 1 is one which carries every new entry and exiting of each prisoner. It is also called 'record register'. The other register number 2 is for the daily attendance of prisoners only.

    7. Punjab Jails: In A Glimpse
    In Punjab, there are seven central jails at Patiala, Bathinda, Ferozpur, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar and Ludhiana, five Districts jails at Nabha, Sangrur, Faridkot, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, two Open Air jails at Nabha and Kapurthala, one Women Jail at Ludhiana, one Borstal Jail at Ludhiana and ten Sub jails at Fazilka, Majha, Mukatsar, Patti, Ropar, Barnala, Malerkotla, Phagwara, Dasuya and Pathankot. The authorized accommodation in these jails is for 10,854 prisoners. Jail training school is located at Patiala. The average population of Punjab jails is about 14000, including 25 extremists or terrorists during the year 2000.

    8. Conditions and Facilities Being Provided to Jail Inmates under Punjab Jail Manual
    The Punjab Jail Manual is the statutory authority governing the conditions and facilities that are to be provided to the prisoners in jails:
    • Paras 670-prescribes the length of working day and asks for fortnightly weight measurements of prisoners in order to determine health of the prisoner.
    • Paras 712, 713, 716 and 717-deal with the incidence of custodial death and its report to be made to the inspector general of police and the medical officer as soon as possible, after the event.

    • Para 996 of section 1, Chapter-XXXIX- provides regulations for the accommodation capacity of wards, cells and other compartments, intended for occupation by prisoners.
    • Para 999-capacity of wards must be inscribed over the door and this must include the class of prisoners, the superficial area in square feet, amount of air space it contains in cubic feet and the number of prisoners housed.
    • Para 1013-precautions against over-crowding. If there is such a possibility, the inspector-general and superintendent of police shall be informed.
    • Para 1013-asks for classification of prisoners according to health, and the description shall be termed as either 'good', 'bad', 'indifferent'.
    • Para 1058- sick prisoners may be given light work.

    „ Some Reformatory Suggestions; by the former DIG Punjab jails , Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh and Prison Officials.

    In the training programme for jail officers, held on 8th-9th October, 2006, in Gumtala Central Jail Amritsar, DIG Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh has discussed the problems of undertrials and given his suggestions thereof.According to the DIG, In Punjab Jails usually the number of undertrials is more than the convicts and the position is almost same in other jails of India also.

    Table 3.2: Prison Statistics
    Category Male Female Total
    Convicts 743 22 765
    Under trials 1443 68 1495
    Condemned prisoners 06 00 06
    Internees 43 04 47

    The above given prison statistics shows the extent to which the problem of overcrowding and congestion rise because of undertrials in Punjab jails. And the factors responsible for such problems:
    1. Delay in Production
    For delay in production of the offenders, it is the police who is responsible, according to DIG, not the judicial officers. By giving example of such non-compliance, he informed that Home Secretary has ordered that there should be 2 guards for each Central jail and 1 for each District Jail but there is no such implementation till today and it is not the judicial officers but the police officials who are responsible for such non-compliances.

    2. Mis Peshi
    When there is a peshi but it does not occur due to any reason, it is called 'mis peshi' One mis pehsi usually caused 2-3 moths or 6 months delay for the hearing again and the prisoner remained in the jail till that time, said DIG.

    3. Delay in Trial Due to Overburdeness
    There is delay in trial due to overburdeness of courts. It could be of 6 years, 5 years or 6 months. Behind the every100 cases, there is 2.5 years delay in average.

    4. Artificial Delay by Rich and Influential Accused Persons
    Rich and influential people made artificial delay causing unnecessary prolonging, regarding the cases in which they are the accused. This is also a major cause for judicial delay.

    The suggestions for the problems of under trials given by DIG are:
    1. Quick disposal of cases
    2. Number of Courts should be increased
    3. Judicial Process should be made easy
    4. Adjournments should not be allowed on baseless grounds
    5. Bail in cases of non-serious nature should be guaranteed

    The above given suggestions are the need of the time, to eradicate the obstacles came in the way of undertrials.

    The former Jail superintendent, Sh. Roop Kumar, Amritsar Central Jail said that regarding reformatory suggestions, Firstly and at near most, it is suggested that bail should be liberalized. Give the prisoners bail\, as a mater of right. Thousands of prisoners can be released out of the total jail population with this single suggestion. Jails are meant for convicts and not for undertrials he added. All the jails in Punjab are lacking in their staff-strength. The staff strength should be increased primarily; their attitude towards jails inmates is secondary. With the modern penological system, their attitude would automatically be change according to the changed circumstances. The primary step is to fulfill at least the required staff strength in Punjab jails.

    Further the problem of health hygiene is there in Punjab jails. There is not even a fully equipped hospital in any of the jail in Punjab. According to the Punjab Jail manual, there should be at least one doctor behind the 500 inmates but in reality, there is not even a single doctor in any of the sub-jail also, said Mr. Roop Kumar. In addition, there is not any Lady Dr. in any of the jails in Punjab which causes difficulty for female prisoners regarding their treatment. Thus, it has been suggested that there should be a proper hospital, fully equipped with infrastructure, medical lab, operation theater etc. Every central jail should have one hospital with a specialist therein, jail superintendent suggested.

    The Indian prisons are no better for the reason that economic conditions do not permit to evolve better modes of prison management. Therefore, restructuring of prisons in India needs prime attention. The conditions of Punjab prisons are highly deplorable. These are the walled houses of cruelty, torture and defiled dignity. The Jail Manuals are antiquated, the architecture is primitive and the attitude of the jail authorities towards crime and criminals is not only indifferent, but unpardonably dehumanizing. Sub-human living conditions, prison riots, jail breaks and frequent escape of defenses are other disturbing aspects. The ground realities are no jail in the country has the sources for keeping prisoners in healthy surroundings. No prison has an imaginative reformatory system, governed by officers and men who want to bring about a change of heart or of attitude towards self and society in a criminal. In fact, casual wrong-doers become hardened criminals during their period of stay in jails. Poor sanitation and overcrowding plagued almost all the jails. About the plight of women inmates and young persons, less said the better. The funds made available for jail inmates are often misappropriated. The Government has still to evolve guidelines for prison management on modern lines.

    Mohanty Amarendra and Hazary Narayan, Indian Prison System, Ashish Publishing House, ND 1990, p. 7.
    Jeane Hearsch, Birth Right of Man , UNESCO, 1968.
    Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. III, Oxford University Press, Kolkatta, 1979, p. 1385.
    Cambridge Encyclopedia, 1994, p. 895.
    Madhavaro Mahaworker, Prison Management, Problems and Solutions, Kalpaz Publications, Delhi, 2006, pp. 9-10.
    Gurpreet Pannu, Female of Offenders in Police Lock Ups and Custody in Punjab- A Critical Study, Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis of Law, GNDU, Amritsar, Punjab, 1996, p. 86.
    Malkiat S. Rahi, The functioning of Punjab prisons: An appraisal in the context of correctional objectives, Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis of Philosophy, GNDU, Amritsar, Punjab, 1987, p.10

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