Delhi High Court refuses to interfere with Delhi government policy limiting jail visits to two per week

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The Delhi High Court recently refused to interfere with the Delhi government’s policy decision to limit the total number of visits by family members and legal advisors to prisoners and undertrials in jails to two times a week [Jai A Dehadarai & Anr v. Government of NCT of Delhi & Anr].

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad noted that the government had taken the decision based on the number of undertrials and prisoners incarcerated and, therefore, the same cannot be termed completely arbitrary.

The said decision was taken after careful consideration of the facilities available in prisons, availability of staff and the number of undertrials, the Court underlined.

“In matters of policy, the Courts do not substitute its own conclusion with the one arrived at by the Government merely because another view is possible. Therefore, this Court is not inclined to pass any order issuing writ of mandamus,” the order stated.

The Court was dealing with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Advocate Jai A Dehadrai challenging Rule 585 of the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018.

The plea sought an amendment to the Rules so as to allow interviews with legal advisers to be open from Monday to Friday for an appropriate allotted time, with no cap on interviews per week. It was argued that limiting the number of meetings is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

In its response, the State argued that there are 16 Jails in Delhi housing more than 18,000 prisoners against the sanctioned capacity of 10,026. The government said that given the number of inmates, a decision was taken to put a cap on the number of visits.

It further said that in no other State are prisoners allowed visits more than two times a week and the Model Prison Manual only permits visits once in a fortnight.

After considering the case, the Court refused to pass any orders against the policy, but allowed the petitioner to give a representation to the State providing suggestions on the issue.

“With these observations, the petition is disposed of, along with pending application(s), if any,” the Bench ordered.

The petitioner appeared in person, while the Delhi government was represented through its Additional Standing Counsel Satyakam and Advocate Pallavi Singh.

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