Department of Sociology
Welfare Actions for the Incarcerated-I
Welfare Actions for the Incarcerated-I
Since its inception, the Vision of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has been to be an institution of excellence in higher education that continually respond to changing social realities through the development and application of knowledge, towards creating a people-centered, ecologically sustainable and just society that promotes and protects dignity, equality, social justice and human rights for all.
Through the grant of fellowships the institute encourages students to work with marginalized and vulnerable sections of society and tread on unexplored paths. Experience with fellowships has shown that they are an effective way to nurture talent and explore challenging issues. Documentation and analysis of the work done by the fellows help build indigenous knowledge. The criminal justice fellowship programme is one of the several fellowship programmes of TISS. It was started in 2015 and is offered for a period of two years. There are 25 fellows working in different states in India i.e. Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and UttarPradesh. They are working on different issues within the broad theme of criminal justice i.e. mob justice, legal aid in prison, observation home, custodial death, sexual violence and issues of women workers in unorganized sector.
Miss Sabika Abbas, an alumnus of TISS was awarded Criminal Justice fellowship to work with undertrial prisoners of Aligarh District Jail. As part of the fellowship programme and also to extend and sustain the work, a collaborative process was initiated between the Department of Sociology, Aligarh Muslim University and the Centre for Criminology and Justice, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. The collaboration aims at providing socio – legal aid and guidance to prison inmates of Aligarh District Jail and later expand its scope to the jails of western Uttar Pradesh which has a very limited presence of external agencies working on this issue. The programme is aimed at reaching out to the prison population and bridging the gap between the courts and jails.
In order to deliberate further and to move in positive direction discussions were held with the students of various Departments such as Psychology, Sociology, and Law etc. on the work done by TISS in Mumbai and in Aligarh Prison. This helped to get an understanding of the interest of students and how willing they are to participate. The positive response of the students led to the organization of a Symposium on the Need and Scope of Working in Prison and Criminal Justice Settings wherein all stakeholders were present at Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh to interact with students on the title of the symposium.
Prof Vijay Raghavan, Dean, Social Protection Office, TISS, Mumbai, Ms Sugandha Shankar and Raja Bagga, CHRI, New Delhi, Dr S Kulshrestha, DIG (Prisons), Dr V Sharma, Superintendent, Aligarh Jail, LT Gen Zameer Uddin Shah (Veteran), Vice Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University, Prof S Zainuddin, Chairperson, Department of Sociology, graced the occasion by their presence and interacted with the audience on the significance of working in Prison and Criminal Justice Setting. Ex-prisoners and members of their family were invited to sensitize the students through their experience, the problems of undertrial prisoners, difficulties experienced by their family, post-release disadvantages and the losses incurred in fighting legal battle.
After the event, students from the university volunteered to join the project which was named as ‘Welfare Actions for Incarcerated’ (WAFI). In order to address the social and legal constraints of the undertrial prisoners of Aligarh District Jail, it was decided to place the student volunteers into three teams i.e. the Home Visit Team, Court Visit Team, and the Prison Visit Team.
Purpose of Home Visit Team (Family Visit)
The family is not merely a concept, it is an emotional experience. It provides the foundation that helps maintain the physical and psychological integrity of individual members. Contact with the family members provides the inmates the strength to sustain prison life. Family members are also helpful in fighting the legal battle. However, visit by the family members is not very common. There are several reasons for it. Very often, the family is too poor to afford the expense of travelling to prison, visit to the prison also means loss of daily wage, jails are located far away from the main area of residence and visiting consumes a lot of time and money and demands physical exertion, visiting is also emotionally straining for the children and elderly family members. Home visit by external agencies (in case of absence of visits by the family members) prevents the inmates from the losses incurred because of lack of visitation.
Purpose of Court Visit Team
In the administration of justice, there are two major systems for the dispensation of justice. The adversarial and the inquisitorial system. India follows the adversarial system. Under such a system, two advocates represent their party’s position before an impartial jury/judge who attempts to determine the truth of the case. Justice is done when the most effective adversary is able to convince the judge /jury that his/her perspective on the case is the correct one. Thus, the prosecution and the defense under such a system stand opposed to each other.
As such in this system, lawyers play a vital role in deciding the fate and destiny of undertrial prisoners, who though presumed to be innocent, languish in prison for several years.
The laws are complicated and have many loopholes; the legal process is costly, lengthy and tiring. Although there is the provision of free legal aid, the lawyers on the panel of free Legal Aid are more interested in private cases. As such, the poor and the illiterate prisoners hardly have even workable access to the justice system. They cannot afford a private lawyer and if by any means they manage to do so, the cases are dragged on which makes the affair very expensive. The court visit refers to meeting the private as well as the Legal Aid lawyers and enquiring about the status of the case. The follow up by the court visit sensitize the councils towards the plight of undertrial prisoners and ensures an empathetic consideration.
Purpose of Prison Visit Team
Prison is the only institution where a convict as well as an undertrial is lodged. Undertrials are those prisoners who, in the eyes of law, are yet to be convicted by the absolute final judgment. Most of the undertrials are poor and illiterate, waiting anxiously and uncertainly to see what fate holds for them. The percentage of undertrial prisoners often exceeds that of convicts. Many of the undertrial prisoners are without a lawyer; they are unaware of the legal proceedings, first time offenders and charged for petty offence. Many a times, there family is unaware of their imprisonment. Visits by external agencies enable to highlight the inmates who are in need of social and legal assistance. Helping the inmates overcome the socio-legal constraints which eventually results in reducing overcrowding and the repel effects of imprisonment.
The WAFI team during the first three months (April-June 2017) addressed the following cases-
Dharam is a forty-five years old undertrial prisoner. He is in prison since the last five years and suffers from hearing and speech impairment. He is unable to move and is confined to a wheel chair as left part of his body is paralyzed. Dumb, deaf and paralyzed, Dharam is in prison because the justice system considers him to be a threat for the society.
When the WAFI prison visit team met Dharam, he only stared at the team members. His co-inmates informed that since the time he has been prison, he has not met any of his family members. They do not visit him. The prison staff submitted a detailed medical report, requesting the court to release him on bail. However, since there was no contact with his family members and the fact that Dharam was paralyzed, releasing him on bail would place him in a worse situation. Anticipating the hardships which he was likely to experience after release, it was eventually decided to let things remain unchanged.
Home visit team took up the arduous task of locating Dharam’s residence. After several days of vigorous effort, it was found that his parents, wife, children and brothers lived in a village near Aligarh. His family members, specially his mother and wife, were very happy to hear about Dharam. When asked why they never went to visit him in jail during the last five years, the team members were informed that they had come to know that visiting a prisoner is punishable. The team members explained the provision of visiting in jail, the significance of family visits and the loss incurred because of the lack of family visits. Dharam’s mother and wife readily agreed to visit him with the help of WAFI team. However, they expressed their ignorance regarding the transportation to Aligarh District Jail.
The very next day, the two female members of Dharam’s family reached Aligarh and contacted the WAFI team members with the help of strangers (as they did not have a mobile phone). The team members reached the spot where the ladies were waiting. They took them to Aligarh District Jail and helped them in carrying out the visiting procedure. The Jail Superintendent granted special permission and they did not had to wait. Immediately, they were allowed inside the jail and Dharam was brought in a wheel chair to meet his mother and wife after five years. It was emotionally very straining for all three of them. During Dharam’s five years stay in jail, they had lost all hope of ever meeting each other. The family members were very thankful to the prison staff and the members of the WAFI team.
Then onwards, visit by family members became a regular feature. Meanwhile, application for release of Dharam on bail was submitted by Tapan Vahal, Criminal Justice Fellow, TISS. Dharam was granted bail, but his family is too poor to pay the surety. WAFI team members are tried to contact Dharam’s relatives in order to arrange for the surety. With great difficulty, WAFI team succeeded in convincing one of Dharam’s relative to arrange for one of the two sureties. Simultaneously, the team was also trying to persuade the judge to release Dharam on personal bond as the family was too impoverished to pay for the surety. Fortunately, the judge was kind enough to agree to WAFI’s request and Dharam was released on bail.
Barkat is a 55-year-old undertrial prisoner alleged for spousal murder. He is in prison since the last four years. Prison staffs are worried about him because of his repeated attempt of self harm and suicide and they do their very best in order to prevent him from the tragedy. He experiences anxiety and a feeling of worthlessness. His three sons and a daughter live by themselves in a rented house.
He is in prison since the last four years. There is not much legal advancement in his case as there is no adult family member to look into the legal matter. His three sons and daughter stayed with his sister after his arrest. She visited her brother often along with the children. After her death the children live all alone in a rented room. The eldest son is without any regular earning and the two younger minor sons dropped out of school to work in a Dhaba. Working from morning till 11.00 at night enables them to arrange two meals a day for their siblings. With no education the girl is confined to the house. Visiting their father means loss of a day’s wage and chances of being removed from work. So after their aunt’s death they stopped visiting their father.
Lack of contact with the children made Barkat worried about their whereabouts. He was also unaware of the legal progress in his case and was apprehensive of it being neglected. All this eventually made him resort to self harm and suicide. Barkat attempted suicide but was fortunately saved because of the attentiveness of the co-inmates and the prison staffs. The Superintendant and other prison staffs were sympathetic and humane towards him and attempted to help him resolve the problem. The Jail Superintendant out of great concern shared Barkat’s ordeal with the Prison Visit Team of WAFI. Members of the Prison team met Barkat and listened to all that he wanted to share attentively and patiently. This proved to be a source of catharsis for him and instilled hope in him. The Home Visit Team of WAFI visited Barkat’s children, learnt about them and requested the eldest son to visit his father. The team members accompanied the eldest son to prison and Barkat met his son after a long interval. WAFI team members met the dhaba owner and requested him to relax the working hours for the minor sons so that they could reach home early. The owner heeded to the request. The team members also took Barkat’s daughter to the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital and got her treated as she was not well. The prison staff and the members of the WAFI team met Barkat personally and tried to fulfill as much of his legitimate requests as was possible within the limited resources. His son also met the lawyer and apprised Barkat of the progress made in the case so far. With all this Barkat no longer feels dejected and is hopeful of being out of prison and living along with his children.
Akbar an undertrial prisoner is lodged in Aligarh District Jail since the last five years. He was arrested on charges of drug trafficking.
Akbar is a young man in his 20s. He originally hails from Jharkhand, but has been living in Aligarh for some time now. He belongs to a poor family and had shifted to Aligarh in order to ease the financial burden of his family and also to save money for his mother’s treatment, who is suffering from cancer. His sister and brother-in-law live in Aligarh and Akbar shared the same roof with them. Ever since, he has been moving in and out of Aligarh in search of livelihood. This search for livelihood abruptly ended when he was arrested on charges of drug trafficking. Since then, he is confined to prison and seldom gets any visitor.
His brother-in-law rarely visits him. Since nobody in their family is literate, he attempted to arrange a lawyer for Akbar through his friends and acquaintance. One of his acquaintances, who happened to be educated and rich, decided to help him by arranging a lawyer. However, Akbar was unaware of this development.
The lawyer never met Akbar and neither did he arrange for the court hearing. Akbar waited for several months and eventually thought of submitting an application to the Jail Superintendent, requesting him to arrange a lawyer for him.
When WAFI team visited the prison, the application was forwarded to the team.
WAFI team tried to contact Akbar’s brother-in-law telephonically but he did not respond. With great difficulty the team reached Akbar’s residence in Aligarh. They met Akbar’s brother-in-law and learnt the details of the case. They contacted the lawyer and requested him to explain the progress made in the case. The lawyer was impolite towards the team members and did not share the details. Akbar was never presented in the court and the WAFI team requested the lawyer to arrange for his hearing. The lawyer refused the same saying that it was not his task.
Disappointed with the lawyer, the team members took up the task of presenting Akbar for the trial. The members met the Judge of the court where Akbar’s case was processed and explained WAFI’s objectives. The Judge assured of all possible co-operation. Subsequently, Akbar’s case proceeded regularly and concluded with the remark that Akbar would be acquitted after a fortnight. Akbar thanked the team members and wished to meet them once he is out of prison.
Rachna, aged 35 is an undertrial prisoner. She is alleged for attempt to murder and is in prison since the last four years. Her mother Vinita is a co-accused in the same offence and is also in prison. Rachna has two children. Daughter, Sonam, seven years old and son, four years old. Her son was born in prison. She brought her daughter to prison and she stayed along with her till she was six years of age. Later, she was placed under the care of her maternal grandfather i.e. Rachna’s father. He is a rickshaw puller and lives in a rented single room. His minor daughter (Rachna’s sister) is his only companion who does all the cooking and cleaning. She is enrolled in a school but hardly has the time to visit it. Immediately, after Rachna’s arrest, her husband remarried and moved out of the town. Since then, Rachna has no contact with him. Her in-laws have severed all ties with her. With great difficulty, Vinita’s aged parents (Rachna’s grandparents) arranged a lawyer for them. However, because of their ill health, they visited Rachna and Vinita very infrequently. Sonam had also not visited Rachna since she left prison. Rachna was worried about her and requested the WAFI team to find out about Sonam’s well being.
Team members visited Rachna’s daughter and found that Rachna’s sister is the sole caregiver of her daughter as Rachna’s father stayed out most of the time. Sonam is not enrolled in school and stays inside throughout the day. She does not play and remains quiet and inactive. As there was no adult female to look after Sonam, she was not in good health. On the request of the team members, she was brought to meet Rachna. On seeing her, Rachna was very disappointed and wanted to bring her back to the prison. Rachna said “She was much better in prison. I wish she stayed here.” But as this was not permissible, Sonam returned to her grandfather.
Then onwards, team members visited Sonam frequently and kept an eye on her well being. They also met the lawyer and kept track of the case proceedings. A socio-economic profile of Rachna’s family was prepared and submitted to the judge for sympathetic consideration.
Members of the 3 Teams:
Prison Visit Team Court Visit Team Home Visit Team
1. Showkat Wani (Law) 1. Yusuf Akhtar (Law) 1. Saif Wahab (Sociology)
2. Pooja Varshney (Sociology) 2. Ammar Ahmed (Law) 2.Shubhoneet Chatterjee
3. Iram Khan Afridi (Sociology) (Psychology)
3. Zoya Javed (Sociology)
4. Chakit (Sociology)
5. Bhavesh Pant (Sociology)
6. Buddh Prakash Dhamma
Piya Asoka (Sociology)
WAFI TEAM REPORT - II
WAFI TEAM REPORT - II
India is a modern state which has accepted the concept of welfare state. Hence, it has to work for the welfare of the general public. Special protection should be provided to the people unable to protect themselves and their interests. It is the function of the State to establish a just social order by enacting just laws and providing equal opportunity to all to grow. Poverty, injustice, inequality and social disabilities can be reduced by the State by pursuing just and proper policies backed by protective legislations to enable the poor to enjoy the benefits of the constitutional and other legal rights. The concept of social justice must be the underlying principle in the administration of justice in our country. However, the present system of administration of justice is not favourable to the downtrodden and vulnerable sections of society. The proceedings are so complicated that the poor people can hardly understand them. They sit as helpless spectators in courts even for their own cases. They are mystified by court formalities and procedures. Today, courts are very much used by the affluent sections of society for protecting and affirming their individual rights. Legal professionalism, ignorance of law, exorbitant fees come in the way of the poor who seek justice through courts. According to Justice P.N. Bhagwati, in the present legal system, the poor is always exploited, harassed and is made to experience the painful side of law. To make the laws channel justice to the poor, free legal services have been incorporated in the legal system in India. In an inegalitarian milieu, where legal illiteracy and economic indigency afflict the people, such a system turns out to be hostile to the expectations of the common man from the court of justice. The filing of habeas corpus petition in 1979 by Nirmal Kapila Hingorani on behalf of nineteen undertrial prisoners registered as Hussainara Khatoon vs State of Bihar eloquently and vividly demonstrated how undertrial prisoners generally and the impoverished and destitute particularly are treated by the criminal justice system and how the constitutional guarantees of Article 21 and 32 remain illusory and unsubstantiated for such prisoners. The court held that the state could not avoid its constitutional obligation to provide speedy trial to the accused pleading financial or administrative inability and that it was the constitutional obligation of the Supreme Court to enforce fundamental rights of citizens. The court recommended to the state to introduce a comprehensive legal services program in the country. This led to the constitution of a committee for implementing the Legal Aid Scheme in 1980, which was funded by the Government of India. Legal Aid implies giving free legal services to the poor and needy who cannot afford the services of a lawyer for the conduct of a case or a legal proceeding in any court, tribunal or before an authority. Article 39 (a) of the Constitution of India provides that state shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunities and shall in particular, provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disability. Article 14 and 22 (1) also make it obligatory for the state to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity to all. Thus, legal aid strives to ensure that the constitutional pledge is fulfilled in its letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the downtrodden and weaker sections of the society.
The WAFI team during its work from September 2019 to November 2019, interacted with several undertrial prisoners, men as well as women of Aligarh District Jail. One of the common grievances of the prisoners and their families indentified by the team members was the unsatisfactory performance of the lawyers. It was reported that lawyers show lack of concern and empathy towards the plight of prisoners. Cases are often dragged for very long periods of time. Almost all the prisoners belong to poor and illiterate families. It is often very difficult for the family to fight the legal battle, especially when the breadwinning member is imprisoned. In order to endure the long and expensive legal battle, they have to sell their land or any other property which they possess. It was also learnt that families have to sell their house and shift to some other place and search for a new livelihood in order to meet their ends. In such a circumstance, the effective implementation of the Legal Aid Scheme of India would be a boon for the impoverished prisoners and their families. Following are the cases, in which humble intervention was made by the members of the WAFI team.
Asad is a twenty years old under trail prisoner. He is in prison since the last six months. He is booked under the NDPS Act (Section 21 and 22).
NDPS Act (Section 21), 1985: “Punishment for the contravention in relation to manufactured drugs and preparation. Whoever, in contravention of any provision of this act, or any rule order made or condition of license granted thereunder, manufactures, possess, sells, purchases, transports, import inter-state, export inter-state or uses any manufactured drug or any preparation containing any manufactured drug shall be punishable” and under
NDPS Act (Section 22), 1985: “Where the contravention involves commercial quantity, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to twenty years and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees but may extend to two lakh rupees: Provided that the court may, for reasons to be recorded in the judgment, impose a fine exceeding two lakh rupees”.
Asad is a repeat offender. His father passed away and now his family consists of his mother and three younger siblings. His mother earns for the family by stitching clothes. The family does not visit him as they are hopeless of him giving up the illegal profession. Asad wants to meet his family, apologize and know about the legal progress in his case. When the members of WAFI team met him he requested for the same. The team members visited his family and saw their miserable living condition. They were not interested in visiting him as that would lead to loss of work and daily income which could mean a day without any meal. Since Asad was without a lawyer the team members submitted an application requesting for Legal Aid.
Bhoomi is a thirty years old under trial prisoner. She is in prison since the last eleven months. She is booked under IPC section 302 (murder of minor daughter).
IPC Section 302: Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or [imprisonment for life], and shall also be liable to fine.
Prior to imprisonment, Bhoomi was a housewife. Her family consisted of her husband and three minor children (including her daughter). When the WAFI team visited the female section of the prison, Bhoomi approached the team members and shared her ordeal. She was without a lawyer and had not met her family since the last eight months. After her arrest her minor sons stayed with her mother but later they began to stay with their father. Since then Bhoomi has not met her children.
Bhoomi wanted to meet her children and requested the WAFI team to help her. Accordingly, the team applied for a lawyer who would take care of Bhoomi’s issues.
Nareshram is a sixty four years old under trial prisoner. He has been in prison since the past five years. He is booked under IPC Section 304.
IPC Section 304: Whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall be punished with [imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also liable to fine, if the act by which death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both, if the act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without any intention to cause death, or to cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.
Prior to imprisonment, Nareshram was a mechanic. His family consists of his wife and two sons. When the WAFI team members met Nareshram in prison, he informed them that he had not met his sons in a long time and thus he requested the team to contact them. The team members accordingly visited his village and came to know that his sons no longer live there. The neighbours informed that after Nareshram’s arrest his family left the village. Occasionally any of Nareshram’s sons visit their house and the neighbours assured that in the next visit they will convey that Nareshram wanted to meet his family members. Since, the team members could not contact the family; they informed the same to Nareshram on their return.
Nagma is a twenty-five years old undertrial prisoner alleged for spousal murder. She is in prison since the last eighteen months and is booked under IPC Section 302.
IPC Section 302: “Punishment for murder, whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.”
Nagma’s only son, who is three years old lives with her in-laws after her arrest. She has not met her son since her arrest. Her in-laws do not visit her. Her only visitor is her seventy years old mother who also looks after her case. Both of them being illiterate do not have much idea about the legal proceedings.
When the WAFI team visited prison, Nagma shared her desire to meet her son. The team members visited her in-laws who reside in a village near Aligarh district. They requested the family to bring Nagma’s son to meet her. The family expressing their annoyance said “Her son lives with his uncle in the state of Rajasthan. It is not possible to take him to meet his mother. But even if he lived here, we would never want him to meet Nagma.”
The team members tried their best to convince the family but since the family did not cooperate, the team members met Nagma’s lawyer. Her lawyer also refused to cooperate, explaining that this was not a legal issue and thus was of no concern to him. Eventually, the team members submitted an application informing the court of Nagma’s wish to meet her son.
Rahul is a twenty-five years old undertrial prisoner. He is in prison since the last one year and is booked under IPC Section 392, 411 and 414.
IPC Section 392: “Whoever commits robbery shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; and, if the robbery be committed on the highway between sunset and sunrise, the imprisonment may be extended to fourteen years.”
IPC Section 411: “Dishonestly receiving stolen property.—whoever dishonestly receives or retains any stolen property, knowing or having reason to believe the same to be stolen property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”
IPC Section 414: “Whoever voluntarily assists in concealing or disposing of or making away with property which he knows or has reason to believe to be stolen property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”
Rahul’s father owns a small garment shop. Prior to imprisonment, Rahul was a driver. His family consists of his parents and four younger siblings. When the team members met Rahul he was worried about the legal progress in his case. He didn’t have any idea of his lawyer and asked the team members to visit his family in order to find out the details. When the team members met his family they came to know that the family was too poor to hire a lawyer, and didn’t have any understanding of the ‘Legal Aid Scheme’. Team members requested the family to visit Rahul. They also requested the prison authorities to help Rahul through the Legal Aid Scheme.
SHAH AHMAD’S CASE
Shah Ahmad is a forty years old under trial prisoner. He has been in prison since the last 18 months. He has been booked under IPC Section 307, 380, 457 and 411.
IPC Section 307: Whoever does any act with such intention or knowledge, and under such circumstances that, if he by that act caused death, he would be guilty of murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; and if hurt is caused to any person by such act, the offender shall be liable either to [imprisonment for life], or to such punishment as is hereinbefore mentioned.
IPC Section 380: Whoever commits theft in any building, tent, or vessel, which building, tent or vessel is used as a human dwelling, or used for the custody of property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
IPC Section 457: Whoever commits lurking house trespass by night or house-breaking by night, in order to the committing of any offence punishable with imprisonment, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine; and, if the offence intended to be committed is theft, the term of the imprisonment may be extended to fourteen years.
IPC Section 411: Whoever dishonestly receives or retains any stolen property, knowing or having reason to believe the same to be stolen property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Prior to imprisonment, Shah was a truck driver. His family consists of his wife, minor son, mother and sister. When the WAFI team members met Shah Ahmad in prison he informed them that he had not met his family members since a long time and that he didn’t have any awareness about the legal progress in his case. He wanted to meet his family members and thus requested the WAFI team to contact his family. The team members accordingly contacted his wife as well as other family members. Initially, the family was reluctant to meet him but upon several requests his wife came to meet him followed by other family members.
They had hired a private lawyer but since there was not satisfactory progress in the case and the family had already spent a huge amount fighting the legal battle they were further unable to bear the expenses. After they came to know about the Legal Aid Scheme they requested the WAFI team to arrange for a lawyer through the same.
SUNDAR LAL’S CASE
Sundar Lal is a seventy years old under trial prisoner. He is in prison since the past eight years. He is booked under IPC Sections 302, 425 and 201. His son was also arrested on the same charges but is now released on bail.
IPC Section 302: Punishment for murder- whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
IPC Section 425:
Mischief- whoever with intend to cause, or knowing that he is likely to cause, wrongful loss or danger to the public or to any person, causes the destruction of any property, or any such change in any property or in the situation thereof as destroys or diminishes its value or utility or affects it injuriously, commits, “mischief”.
IPC Section 201: Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender – whoever, knowing or having reason to believe that an offence have been committed, causes any evidence of the commission of that offence to disappear, with the intention of screening the offender from legal punishment, or with that intention gives any information respecting the offence which he knows or believe to be false.
to imprisonment, Sundar Lal was a farmer. His family, residing in a village,
consists of his wife and three unmarried children. Sundar Lal informed the team
members that he has no contact with his family. He requested the members to
visit his residence and provide him their whereabouts. His village was located
near the Union Territory of Delhi, which was far away from Aligarh district.
Reaching his village was difficult for the members, so Sundar Lal provided the
residential address of his married sister. When the team visited her residence
they came to know that Sundar Lal’s family shifted to this village after his
arrest. His wife worked as a daily wage labourer in order to support the
children. The family was undergoing great distress because of Sundar Lal’s
arrest. The team explained Sundar Lal’s anxiety and requested that anyone from
the family should try and meet him.
Wahid is a twenty-five years old under trial prisoner and is in prison since the last twelve months. He is booked under IPC Section 392.
IPC Section 392: Punishment for Robbery, whoever commits robbery should be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine, and if the robbery be committed on the highway between sunset and sunrise, the imprisonment may extend to fourteen years.
Prior to imprisonment, Wahid was a rickshaw puller. He is alleged of stealing a motorcycle. Wahid informed the team members that since the last three months his family did not visit him and requested them to visit his residence and inform him about their whereabouts.
The team members visited his residence and came to know that the family was facing a financial crisis as their only earning member was imprisoned. They were struggling to make ends meet and thus it was difficult for them to visit Wahid. Further, Wahid did not have a lawyer to represent him.