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Punjab H.C. seeks details on undertrials in mental institutions

D.N.I.S. News Network Taking note of media reports on large number of undertrials languishing in government mental institutions without having being convicted, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the Punjab Government to furnish a fresh list of all the under-trial prisoners lodged in the Institute of Mental Health, Amritsar.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.K. Jain and Justice Hemant Gupta also sought other details and complete particulars of such undertrials. Among the details that have been sought are the court/jail, district of the place where they are jailed and the offences under which they are facing trial.

The Bench also asked the Court Counsel and Counsel for the State Government to assist the Ccourt as to why proceedings against such undertrial patients, depending upon the period of their confinement in judicial custody, not be quashed in light of their mental health. Hearing will now resume on October 20.

Some years ago, the High Court had taken suo motu notice of media reports regarding the issue. In fact, in 2003, Dr. A.S. Anand, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (N.H.R.C.), had come across one Jai Singh, a mentally ill person undertrial at Ambala. The N.H.R.C. Chief, who was on a visit to Ambala, discovered that the undertrial had been in custody for nearly 17 years. The N.H.R.C. then became a party to the ongoing case in the High Court.

A report, prepared by the N.H.R.C., which talked of the steps needed to take in such case, was also submitted in the Court, according to a news report.