Madras High Court

Madras High Court: In a writ petition filed seeking interim compensation since the petitioner’s son(‘aggrieved') was kept under illegal custody from 31-10-2019 to 14-07-2020, the Single Judge bench of Sunder Mohan, J. held that the aggrieved party should be paid compensation of Rs. 3,50,000/- for illegal detention, since he was imprisoned even after acquittal orders.

In the case at hand, the aggrieved along with another co-accused (‘A1')was convicted under Section 302 IPC and sentenced to life imprisonment. Later, he and the co-accused were acquitted, but the aggrieved wasn't aware of these directions and only came to know this when he made a representation for release. Thus, due to the prison officials’ negligence and dereliction of duty, the aggrieved had to languish in jail, and the present petition was filed.

The respondent stated that prison officials did not release aggrieved, since the Court had referred to him as ‘A2' in the judgment, and his name wasn't mentioned.

The Court said that this argument fell through, since while acquitting A1, the Court specifically directed for the release of the aggrieved and when the Court issues such a specific direction, it’s the prison official's duty to verify who A2 is and clarify if they have doubts. Thus, the Court held that the detention of The aggreived for nine months was illegal.

The Court further noted that they must come to the aid of such citizens, who are not even aware of their basic rights. These are the citizens, who must be compensated adequately. Further, after relying on Rudul Sah v. State of Bihar (1983) 4 SCC 141 the Court opined that the State must pay a sum of Rs.3,50,000/- as compensation to the aggrieved within a period of three weeks from this order.

The Court noted that , based on Sonadhar v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 3182 , the Court had issued the following directions -2022to curb such future instances:

1. The prison authorities are directed to identify life convicts for premature release.

2. The District/ Central Jail Superintendent shall list all eligible life convicts entitled to premature release. Such exercise shall be done every four months. Also, all orders rejecting the premature release should be communicated to the prisoners enabling them to take further action challenging the rejection.

3.Appointment of Legal Aid Counsel shouldn't be made in a mechanical manner but rather through proper assessment of the lawyers.

4. The KIOSK machines are only in Hindi and English; the authorities are directed to install software through which prisoners can access them in their own language within 4 months.

Thus, the Court directed the respondents to file a report as to the steps taken by them regarding the appointment of advocates as legal aid counsels to appraise the prisoners of their rights and assist them in obtaining relief. Further, the respondents were directed to file a status report as to the steps taken for installing KIOSK machines in all the prisons and the steps taken to include Tamil language for the purpose of enabling the prisoners to access the same.

The matter will next be taken up on 30-01-2023

[Rathinam v. The State in 2023 SCC OnLine Mad 191 order dated 12-01-2023]

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