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Packed prisons put police in spot of bother

Cuttack, March 14: The Orissa government is in a Catch-22 situation over the execution of non-bailable warrants (NBWs) vis-à-vis the swelling inmates in prisons.

While the jail administrations in certain regions are forced to reopen wings that have been deemed unfit for human habitation to ease the population crisis, several accused persons are absconding.

The most recent figures (December 2006) for the number of accused persons at large showed that there were over 54,000 NBWs to be executed. Most of the offences were rioting while the others were related to sexual offences, illegal possession of armsand violent crimes.

Police headquarters acknowledged that 37,000-odd NBWs were active as at least one-fourth had been executed or fallen into the “recalled” category.

Some superintendents of police (SPs) said officers were stuck with huge paperwork and handicapped by the lack of investment in cutting-edge policing.

“If the police did not have so many targets or were not so much tied up with the bureaucracy, they would have been more effective. Now you can understand why all these people are at large,” said the SP of a coastal district.

“It does not reassure the public if they (the accused) are at large,” said another SP. “And it is frustrating for the officer when they arrest somebody, produce him/her before court and see the accused get bail and disappear.”

“Issuing NBWs by the courts and execution at the police station is an ongoing process,” said Cuttack SP Saumendra Priyadarshi in whose district 4000-odd NBWs were admittedly pending execution.

“Today, 17 warrants were taken up for execution,” said the police officer.

The Cuttack SP said warrants pending execution in a district does not necessarily reflect the crime situation in that district.

“You can take the case of Bitihotra Mohanti. The warrant against him was referred to Cuttack as his place of residence was recorded under the Cantonment police station area in the city,” he said.

The highest number of NBWs pending execution is in Puri district (4,720) and the police attributed this to frequent cases between groups from different villages.

A senior police official requesting anonymity said all NBWs do not necessarily confirm to the scheme of the criminal procedure code.

An instance of issuing non-bailable warrants preceded by a bailable warrant that had not been executed is not altogether unheard of, he added.

Senior police officials also said that certain warrants issued against politicians are held at the police station because of political pressure.

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