Bihar lawyers’ strike adds to jail overcrowding

April 8th, 2008 - 4:24 pm ICT by admin  

Patna, April 8 (IANS) The ongoing lawyers’ strike in Bihar has had another fallout: hundreds of prisoners who were set to be released or bailed out are still in the overcrowded jails as courts across the state remain paralysed. Jail authorities are eagerly waiting for the lawyers’ strike to end, as they are finding it difficult to house so many inmates.

“The number of prisoners has increased in already overcrowded jails across the state due to the absence of prisoners’ release or bail. It is difficult to manage jails,” Inspector General (Prisons) Sandip Pondrik told IANS Tuesday.

He said officials of at least half a dozen jails had approached him complaining of lack of space for new inmates and have requested him to shift some prisoners to other jails.

“It will be nice if the lawyers’ strike ends sooner rather than later,” Pondrik said.

About 80,000 lawyers including those of the Patna High Court and district courts struck work for the 11th day Tuesday.

They are protesting the “steep” hike in fees for various court services. On Monday, all 122 bar associations of the state decided to continue their agitation till the state government withdrew the hike.

The lawyers of the Patna High Court began their strike March 31 after the state government refused to roll back the fee hike. The lawyers of the district courts have been on strike since March 14.

According to Pondrik, about 40,000 prisoners are lodged in 54 jails across the state against the capacity of about 29,000. The number has been going up every day since the lawyers started their agitation.

For instance, Beur jail in Patna has received over 200 prisoners since the strike began. It had 2,649 inmates on March 10, and the number has gone up to 2,863 now.

The sub-jail in Patna had 141 inmates March 10. Now the number has risen to 191.

Prison department sources said most jails had seen an increase in the number of prisoners during the last one month.

Bihar’s jails have hit headlines in the past for poor living conditions and clashes among inmates amid overcrowding.

M.P. Gupta, a senior lawyer, admitted prisoners’ release or bail was delayed due to the strike. “Judicial services have been totally paralysed by the strike and is affecting the common people,” said Gupta, also a civil rights activist.

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