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Jail courts to speed up justice

Shillong, Aug. 21: Meghalaya deputy chief minister Bindo M. Lanong, who holds the law portfolio, today said lok adalats would provide relief to undertrial prisoners who have been “unnecessarily detained”, thereby easing congestion in jails.

“We can ensure the early release of criminals who have committed petty crimes through lok adalats,” Lanong said while inaugurating the Jail Lok Adalat and Jail Trial organised at the Shillong District Jail by the Meghalaya State Legal Services Authority. This system aims to speed up the delivery of justice.

The state government had initiated the system of holding lok adalats in jails at Jowai, the district headquarters of Jaintia Hills, two weeks ago. Today, it was introduced in Shillong Jail.

Lanong said the jails in the state were overcrowded and stressed the need to improvise the delivery of justice. He also said the government was contemplating setting up of nyayalayas at the village level to “ensure quicker delivery of justice”.

The deputy chief minister also reminisced on the days of his incarceration as a “political prisoner” in Shillong Jail. “About 30 years ago, I was here as one of the political prisoners but was released within a week after we staged a hunger strike,” he said.

Director-general (prisons) Kulbir Krishan said the jail, which could lodge 150 prisoners, had 280 inmates at present. Of these, about 40 were convicts while the rest were undertrials. He said the space constraint would ease after the district jails at Nongstoiñ and Nongpoh — in West Khasi Hills and Ri Bhoi districts respectively — were completed.

“About a year ago, we released around 100 inmates from all the district jails in the state after providing them with legal aid. Of the 750 prisoners lodged in these jails at present, 150 are convicts and 600 undertrials,” Krishan said. He, too, stressed on quicker disposal of cases to ease the congestion in jails.

Talking to reporters later, Krishan highlighted the need to have a central jail that would cater to the needs of the entire state. “We need a central jail which can house about 500 inmates. But we are facing a problem with acquisition of land,” he added.

He said the Shillong jail did not have any closed-circuit television cameras and they were waiting for the state finance department to sanction funds.

“Once the funds are sanctioned, we will be able to install the cameras,” he added.

W. Diengdoh, a member of the Meghalaya State Legal Services Authority (MSLSA), told this correspondent that of the 29 cases that came up at the Jail Lok Adalat and Jail Trial organised at the Shillong Jail today, eight compoundable cases were disposed of and 11 undertrial prisoners released on personal bond while 10 cases could not be disposed of.

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