The Delhi High Court suggested on Thursday appointment of law officers on contractual basis in the 16 jails of the national capital for their better administration and smooth functioning.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking appointment of one law officer in each of the 16 jails of the national capital in a time-bound manner was a "good" issue and asked the AAP government to look into the matter.
Appearing for the Delhi government, Standing Counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra told the bench that the Director General of Prisons has been consulted and the process of appointment of law officers will be set in motion soon.
He told the high court that there are 16 jails in the state -- nine at the Tihar prison complex, one at the Rohini prison complex and six at the Mandoli prison complex.
The lawyer said that selection of law officers through Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board may take time and it was looking other alternatives.
After a brief hearing, the AAP government sought time to file response to the PIL and the court posted the matter for hearing on September 27.
The petition, filed by advocate Amit Sahni, had alleged that despite the Delhi Prisons Act, 2000, mandating that there shall be a law officer in every prison, at present there is only one law officer for the 16 jails in the national capital who is stationed at the prison headquarters at Tihar here.
It had also claimed that from August 2016 to February 2019, no law officer was appointed at the prison headquarters and the legal affairs were dealt with by an officer equivalent to the rank of a deputy superintendent.
Section 6 of the Delhi Prisons Act, 2000, provides that every prison shall have a superintendent, a deputy superintendent, a medical officer, a law officer, a welfare officer and such other officers as the government thinks it necessary.
The plea had said the jails in Delhi are overcrowded and a law officer for every prison would result in a better administration.
"There are 16 jails in Delhi and law officer (headquarters) is looking after legal matters of all 16 jails, including legal work pertaining to the headquarters. The legal work cannot be handed over to officer with ad hoc arrangement.
"Since the beginning, Tihar Jail is overburdened and despite setting up seven new jails outside the Tihar Jail campus, prisons in Delhi are overcrowded, thereby resulting in a stressful environment for officers and staff," the plea had said.
"Further, the burden is created by the respondents by not recruiting law officers for every jail as per the mandate of the statute i.e. Delhi Prisons Act, 2000. It is not only in the interest of the prisoners but also in the interest of better management of Tihar Jail to have a law officer for every jail under the respondent," it had said.
The plea had stated that there is a superintendent, a deputy superintendent and a medical officer for each jail but the respondents have not complied with the mandate of section six of the Delhi Prisoners Act, 2000, for "reasons best known to them".
The petition had said that the appointment of a law officer was necessary to supervise all legal matters, draft and file replies to the court, follow up on cases, appear in court along with the government counsel, co-ordinate with branches of the department for compliance with directions of courts and maintenance of monthly statistics of court cases among others.