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LAHORE: To mitigate the chances of security lapse while shifting inmates to judicial lockups under police custody, the Punjab Prisons Department on the intervention of the Supreme Court has sped up its efforts for converting all the judicial lockups into full-fledged sub-jails across Punjab.

A senior jail officer confided to Business Recorder that the apex court while hearing a public interest litigation, filed by civil society activist Rida Qazi, recently expressed its annoyance over the abysmal attitude of the provincial bureaucracy, particularly those dealing with prisons reforms, and directed the Punjab Home Department and the prisons authorities to accelerate its efforts for bringing much needed reforms in jails.

Keeping in view the SC’s direction, the source said the senior command of the Punjab Prisons and the home department recently sat together and decided to speed up their efforts for introducing jail reforms mainly by pursuing pending proposals.

“During the meeting, two core issues – conversion of judicial lockups into full-fledged sub-jails and empowering jail officials to transport inmates from jails to courts (judicial lockups) instead of police personnel – were discussed at length,” the source said, adding that it was decided to first pursue the issue of conversion of judicial lockups into sub-jails.

Following the meeting, the source said Punjab Prisons Director Development Tahir Khan issued letters to all the superintendents of jails as well as assistant and deputy commissioners across Punjab informing them about the annoyance of the Supreme Court.

“The irony is that up-till now only two judicial lockups, one at district Samundari Faisalabad and the other at Pindi Bhattian in district Hafizabad, got approved (which are near completion/ operationalization). The annoyance is shown and serious view of the situation is taken (by the SC),” wrote Tahir in the letter, a copy of which is available with Business Recorder.

He stated that the condition of overcrowding in Punjab Prisons is getting worse with the increasing trend of crimes in society which is the constant headache for the prisons administration. He added that the conversion of judicial lockups into sub-jails will help in reducing the burden of overcrowding and would result in smooth functioning and improving government efficiency.

When contacted, Tahir Khan told this scribe that he has asked all the assistant and deputy commissioners to submit their recommendations within a week for converting judicial lockups into sub-jails. To a query, he agreed that they were facing budgetary constraints for the establishment of new sub-jails. He, however, expressed optimism that they could convert judicial lockups into sub-jails with “limited resources”.

“Currently, there are almost 42-43 judicial lockups in Punjab and converting them into sub-jails can be possible at this moment instead of establishing new ones,” he explained and added that all the jail superintendents and assistant and deputy commissioners have been directed to prepared PC-1 in this regard and send them to the Inspectorate of the Punjab Prisons within a week.

When asked whether the Punjab Police or the Punjab Prisons will be taking reins of the sub-jails, the director development said as per the negotiations held with the home department senior command, the entire control would be handed over to the prisons employees and it will mitigate the chances of security lapse under police custody which was evident from the episode happened a couple of months ago when around 12 under-trial prisoners escaped from judicial lockup in Model Town courts.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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