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Reunion verdict in HC Rule Book

Islampur, Feb. 20: Parents lodged in jails across Bengal can from now on regularly visit their children who are also in custody under a new law that has been included in Calcutta High Court’s Rule Book.

The rule is based on an order passed by the court in April after a Bangladeshi couple caught while infiltrating and lodged in a jail here prayed that they be allowed to meet their children who had been transferred to government-run homes elsewhere.

Although Malati and Madan Burman have been meeting their children at regular intervals since the high court order, the inclusion of the judgment in Rule Book means that anyone can now ask the same favour from the jail authorities. The last time the parents met their children, a boy and a girl, both minors, was on January 28. The boy is lodged in a home in Jalpaiguri, 150km away, and the girl in Cooch Behar, 300km from here (see map).

“The Islampur subdivisional court received the Rule Book additions in the last week of January,” said Firoz Ahmed, the lawyer who appeared for the Burmans here. In his ruling on April 2, Justice Asim Kumar Roy of the high court had said while the West Bengal Correctional Services Act 1992 did confer the right on every prisoner, under trial or not, to have interviews with friends and relatives, it should honour the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

According to law, children above five years could meet their parents in jail. The law, however, was silent on children who were also in custody as was the case of the Burmans.

The judge had pointed out that under Articles 9(3) and 37(C) of the convention, children “in conflict with law” had the right to have direct personal contact with their parents on a regular basis. “It is one of their basic human rights and the same should not be denied in any way whatsoever,” Justice Roy had said in the judgment.

He had also directed the jail authorities and the Juvenile Justice Board that Malati could meet the children, not less than twice a week and she should be allowed to remain with them for at least an hour.

The Burmans were caught while allegedly crossing the border at Sujali in North Dinajpur in September 2007. In December the same year, Malati, had appealed to the Islampur subdivisional court that she be allowed to meet the children.

The subdivisional court had said Indian law did not have such provisions to allow meetings. The parents then appealed to the high court and since the Indian law was silent on the issue, Justice Roy followed the UN convention. According to high court advocate Jaymalya Bagchi, who had appeared for the Burmans, the Supreme Court had empowered high court judges to follow UN convention.

Currently, there are four Bangladeshi boys in Suryodaya, a government home in North Dinajpur’s Raiganj, and seven girls in Shahid Bandana in Cooch Behar.

The inclusion of Justice Roy’s verdict in the Rule Book is likely to affect these children, too, whose parents reside in Raiganj and Cooch Behar jails.

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