Jails need to be reformed
Amidst reports of over-crowding of jails across the country and lack of proper facilities to the inmates, it was a welcome gesture by the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mr Justic Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to have visited the Kot Lakhpat Jail near Lahore the other day. It was an eloquent manifestation of concern for the inmates of the Jail by the Chief Justice, The main objective of the unannounced visit by the Chief Justice was to see the arrangements made for the prisoners in addition to hearing prisoners complaints directly. It is good that the Chief Justice feels for the poor people and his visit to Jail to have an on the spot assessment of the conditions in which prisoners were being held would send a loud message not only to jail authorities across the country but other public dealing institutions to set their houses in order.
The Chief Justice in addition to visiting various barracks and dispensary inquired about the provision of food and other facilities under the law to the prisoners. It was surprising for the prisoners who appeared to be much excited that Chief Justice of Pakistan had personally come to see their living conditions and treatment being meted out to them in jail. He took notice of the overcrowded barracks and directed authorities to redress the situation. It is worth mentioning that off and on prisoners have been complaining of inhuman treatment meted out to them by the jail staff and they had been staging protests over it. The latest agitation in this connection was in Hyderabad.
The visit of CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to Kot Lakhpat is an indication that he is determined that the system gets needed reforms to remove injustices and distortions, which is a holy mission. The visit to the jail in sultry conditions by the Chief Justice is reflective of his desire to reach to those who are unable to air their grievances and give them hope of justice at the door step.
Ever since the reinstatement of the Chief Justice, the people in general and the poor in particular have heaved a sigh of relief. Justice Iftikhar Muhammad has endeared himself among the people as they know that there is some honest and dedicated person at the helm of judiciary to redress their problems and provide them quick and inexpensive justice.
As for the conditions in the jails are concerned, there can be no two opinions that a complete overhaul; of the conditions prevailing there need to be done without any loss of time. The jails are overcrowded and under-trial and the convicts are huddled together, The quality of food served is too poor to talk about.
There is gross violation of the jail manual and prisoners are denied the facilities to which they are entitled. Under these circumstances, the visit of the Chief Justice of Pakistan to one of the most notorious jail will certainly send a message to the officials concerned to take remedial measures and treat the convicted as well as under-trial strictly according to the Jail manual. We salute the Chief Justice for finding time to undertake the visit to the Kotlakhpat jail. We are sure his visit will follow necessary message to the authorities concerned not to improve the living conditions in the jails. Another aspect that needs to be addressed is to expand the capacity of the jails and to ensure the appearance of the under trials before the Judges/Magistrates on the date of hearing so that the pending cases do not pile up. It should dawn upon the authorities concerned that Justice delayed is justice denied.