ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Wednesday expressed displeasure over the poor state of affairs in prisons, saying there is no rule of law inside jails of the country.
The remarks were made during the hearing of a case, initiated after a prisoner in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Central Jail wrote a letter to the IHC CJ, detailing discriminatory behavior of jail staffers towards prisoners based on their financial and social status.
During the hearing, the human rights ministry’s director-general apprised the bench that influential prisoners were living in Adiala Jail’s hospital without any physical ailment. He added that the concerned minister also formed a fact-finding committee on the issue.
The official further said that the complaint redressal system at Adiala is dormant and before their announced visits, jail premises were fixed-up but this was in contrast to the reality. “The Adiala and Bhakar jail superintendents didn’t even know about the IHC order,” the official disclosed.
The jail authorities have not taken any measures for the betterment of prisoners, the official said, adding that Adiala housed 5,000 prisoners, although its maximum capacity is 2,000.
Justice Minallah remarked that those who were influential outside the jails were powerful inside as well. “There is discrimination between the influential and common prisoners,” the CJ said, adding that human rights violations in jails must be put an end to. He also directed the official to compile a report in this regard.
Addressing the human rights DG, the IHC judge said, “You will have to end these human rights violations in jails.” Justice Minallah also cited the example of murder convict Shahrukh Jatoi, who was enjoying a lavish lifestyle after his family rented out an entire floor of a hospital for him.
During the hearing, the deputy attorney general suggested that a high court judge should visit the prison to examine its condition. At this, Justice Minallah asked him whether he had been to jail. The lawyer responded he had visited jails in connection to jail trials. “I don’t mean jail trial, have you ever been sent to jail as a prisoner,” the judge retorted.
“A lot of lawyers were sent to jail during the judiciary restoration movement. If judges and ministers also spend some time there they will then develop some empathy,” the CJ added. “What is the problem in giving media access to the prisoners for interviews,” he inquired.
The HR DG said media should be a part of the fact-finding committee then. At this, the court adjourned the hearing till Feb 8.