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Pregnancy and Health Measures Addressed by SC’s Broadened District Committees’ Authority

SC Broadens District Committees’ Authority: Addressing Pregnancy and Health Measures of Women Inmates


In a significant move, the Supreme Court has expanded the responsibilities of district-level committees, initially established to tackle prison overcrowding, to comprehensively address the specific challenges faced by female inmates, particularly related to Pregnancy and health measures. This development comes in response to the Supreme Court’s suo motu notice concerning the alarming rise in pregnancies among women inmates nationwide. The Court’s order reflects a commitment to addressing the unique issues faced by women in correctional facilities as part of broader prison reform.

Background: Rising Pregnancies Among Women Prisoners

The Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance on February 9, prompted by a plea before the Calcutta High Court highlighting the troubling trend of women prisoners becoming pregnant while in custody in correctional homes across West Bengal. The ongoing proceedings involve a public interest litigation (PIL) aimed at addressing the overcrowding crisis in Indian prisons, and the suo motu case is being heard alongside the PIL.

District Committees’ Expansion: Pregnancy and Health Focus

In an earlier order on January 30, the Supreme Court mandated the creation of district-level committees to assess existing jail infrastructure and identify the need for additional facilities, following the Model Prison Manual of 2016. These committees were directed to include the Principal/District judge (Chairperson of the District Legal Services Authority), Member Secretary (DLSA), District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police, and Superintendent(s) of Jails. In the recent order, the Court added that, in addition to the mentioned members, the senior-most lady judicial officer in the district should also be included to ensure a fair assessment of available security measures, hygiene measures, health care infrastructure, and the welfare of women prisoners specifically addressing Pregnancy and Health Measures. The committee is further required to include a superintendent of women’s jail, wherever possible.

Details from the Hearing

During the hearing on February 16, senior advocate Gaurav Agrawal, acting as an amicus curiae, provided details from the Additional Director General and Inspector General, Correctional Services, West Bengal, regarding children born to women prisoners while in custody. An application filed by Agrawal revealed that 62 babies were born in state jails over the last four years, with most women inmates expecting when brought to prison. The Court expressed concerns despite the presence of female staff and CCTV cameras in women’s jails, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive security audit and addressing issues related to hygiene, security measures, health care infrastructure, and the welfare of women prisoners.

Conclusion: Advancing Women Inmates’ Pregnancy and Health Measures

The Supreme Court’s decision to broaden the scope of district-level committees reflects a commitment to addressing the unique challenges faced by women in correctional facilities. The Court’s focus on comprehensive prison reforms, particularly related to women inmates, marks a significant step toward ensuring a more humane and gender-sensitive approach to incarceration. The Court has sought responses from all states and Union Territories on the issues raised by the amicus curiae in his application for directions. The next hearing is scheduled for April 9, 2024, where further steps toward prison reforms and the welfare of women prisoners are anticipated to be discussed



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