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Plea against new jail manual: HC seeks responses of Delhi govt, LG

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court has sought the responses of the AAP government in the national capital and the Lieutenant Governor on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of the new jail manual and alleging that the LG was not kept in the loop. A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice A J Bhambhani issued notice to the authorities and listed the matter for further hearing on September 2.

The court was hearing a petition filed by social activist and advocate Amit Sahni, who said the Delhi government had not sought the approval of the LG before giving effect to the Delhi Prison Rules (DPR), 2018, which made those "unconstitutional" and liable to be set aside. "Unlike previous rules, neither the beginning lines of DPR, 2018 mention about any approval sought from the LG nor do they refer to anything that the rules shall become operative after notifications to be issued by the LG, in future, in this regard," the plea claimed.

It said by virtue of the DPR, 2018, the Delhi government, by not taking the approval of the LG, had sought to override the previous orders, circulars and notifications in respect of parole and furlough, premature release of convicts etc., which were notified by the LG after due deliberation. "The DPR, 2018 are bad in law and the same are liable to be struck down," the plea claimed.

It said the state government had done away with the outer limit of incarceration for life convicts, which was passed by a July 2004 Sentence Review Board (SRB) order by the LG in furtherance of the National Human Rights Commission's (NHRC) recommendations on premature release of convicts. "The DPR, 2018, in as much as premature release is concerned, have not been appropriately prepared...by doing away with the outer limit of 20/25 years in two categories as suggested by the NHRC in 2003 and incorporated in the SRB order of July 16, 2004," the petition said.

It added that the government's act of removing the outer limit of incarceration would discourage the inmates to maintain a good conduct in custody and would give unlimited power to the SRB to keep someone in custody as per its whims and fancies. The new rules had completely overlooked the welfare of the jail cadre officers by ignoring the model prison manual and those had been prepared by officers other than the jail cadre, the plea alleged.

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