SC directive brings relief to inmatesThe Supreme Court has directed the government to increase the food and other allowances of prisoners and ensure their basic human rights.
The Supreme Court has directed the government to increase the food and other allowances of prisoners and ensure their basic human rights.
The directive, issued on Wednesday, has been welcomed by prisoners and child right activists who had been lobbying for the increment in allowances of prisoners.
But it has started a debate as the directive issued by the bench of Justices Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Anil Kumar Sinha does not specify the amount to be raised on the existing allowance.
It states that the Supreme Court has ensured the right to live with dignity, protection and the right to food to all, including the prisoners and their dependants. The court also called for revision of the laws and regulations regarding prisoner’s allowance.
“We had been pleading to the state to ensure basic human rights of prisoners and their families for a long time, but our plea had gone unanswered. Now that the Supreme Court has issued a mandatory directive, the government has no option but to increase the allowance of prisoners,” said Puspha Basnet, a social worker who was declared a CNN Hero in 2012 for her work with children whose parents are living in prison.
Currently, the government provides inmates an allowance Rs45 and a ration of 700 gramme rice grain a day. The situation of children living in jail while their parents serve their sentence is even more pathetic, the rights groups say.
As per the law, prisoners who have children below the age of five are allowed to keep their children with them. The state provides an allowance of Rs10 a day to these children. The Central Jail alone has 12 children residing there with their mothers.
The directive has opened the door for relief to children living in jail with their parents but it remains uncertain how the government would address it, said Basnet.
Along with increment of allowance, calls have also been made to ensure a child-friendly environment and the basic human rights of children inside the prison.
But the rights defenders have apprehension.
Indira Ranamagar, chair of Prisoner’s Assistance of Nepal, a non-government organisation that looks after the children of criminal parents living in jails, doubts if the state will increase the allowance enough to make a difference to these children.
Scepticism from the rights groups stem from the fact that the government has failed to adhere to earlier directives to raise the allowance of prisoners and their dependants. The National Human Rights Commission had made the Social Justice and Human Rights Committee of Parliament issue a directive to make the allowance timely. A report prepared by the Prisoners Management Department had also advised the government to increase the food and allowance
of prisoners to meet their basic needs.
“As it is a directive from the Supreme Court, I guess it will be implemented. But, as the directive is not specific on the amount of allowance to be increased, there is still room for doubt if it will make a substantial difference to prisoners and their dependents,” said Ranamagar.