Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Saturday emphasising the rights of prisoners said those incarcerated were entitled to dignity during their time in jails.
Speaking at the inaugural session of one day Workshop on “Prisoners vulnerability –Lacking awareness” at Federal Judicial Academy here in Islamabad on Saturday, the chief justice said Islam provided for the rights of prisoners, adding that judiciary was the third pillar of the state which was maintaining the supremacy of the law.
The chief justice said Islam was a religion of peace and tolerance and that prisoners were also entitled to dignity during their time in jails. He pointed out that there are number of offences for which imprisonment has been prescribed but the torture and inhuman treatment with the prisoners are completely against the injunctions of our religion. In Islam it is instructed to treat the prisoner as a free individual with the exception of being confined to prison.
He further said that the rights of prisoners were internationally accepted and that they should not be abused or tortured and must be allowed contact with their families.
Chief Justice Iftikhar moreover said that Article 9 of the Constitution clearly addresses the rights of prisoners, adding that no one should have to remain in prison for a time longer than what is absolutely necessary.
He also urged that the managements of different jails should protect the rights of prisoners.
“Judges are responsible to pay attention to the state of prisoners”, the chief justice said, expressing the hope that the recommendations given during the workshop would help to ameliorate the dismal conditions of the prisoners in Pakistani jails.
The Chief Justice said it is incumbent upon the courts to ensure conducive environment to the prisoners which may help in reforming them.
Mr Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said prisons never remained the priority of the Governments and it was for this reason that number of prisons could not be increased with the passage of time which resulted in their overcrowding. He said it is alarming that number of prisoners is on the increasing side due to rising population and escalating crime rate and that increases violence in the prisons. He said it is need of the time to take urgent remedial steps in prisons reforms.
The Chief Justice said the Supreme Court of Pakistan is fully geared to enforce fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution which entail rights of the prisoners. He said the Judiciary is keen to take all possible steps for the betterment of prisoners
He said the National Judicial Committee has recommended various measures including providing separate boarding to the juveniles and females; having quality food and clean drinking water; providing literature for study; and introducing recreational facilities for the prisoners.
The Chief Justice said the Judiciary is conscious of the fact that it has to protect the rights of the prisoners and performing its duty through the judgments and also taking reformative measures from the forum of the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee but the main stakeholder - the jail regime - has to play its role ensuring providing all facilities which have been recognized by the laws and the rules.
He asked other State functionaries, civil society and media to come forward to join hand with the Judiciary for bringing revolutionary changes in the jail culture.