Temporary leave to be made easy for detainees under Goondas Act

Amendment to ease procedure to allow them to attend funerals of relatives

In a decision favouring prisoners’ rights in Tamil Nadu, the authorities have decided to amend a provision of the Goondas Act, 1982, to ease the procedure to grant temporary leave to detenus to attend funerals of close relatives. Section 15 of the Act will be amended to delegate powers to an authority at the district level.

A meeting of the Committee for Revision of Criminal Rules of Practice of the High Court of Madras, chaired by Justice P.N. Prakash and held last month, resolved that the Home Department take steps for the amendment.

So far, relatives of detenus had to approach either the Principal Bench or Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court with a habeas corpus petition or apply for temporary leave through prison officials. The process invariably took a long time. Pending the amendment, the Home Department has formulated a new procedure for handling such requests. Henri Tiphagne, executive director of People’s Watch, welcomed the decision. “This is a humanitarian decision taken by the judges and I only hope that the prison authorities, too, have the humanitarian spirit because most often, we see cases in which authorities delay the process.” The stop-gap procedure should not keep powers with the Home Department but grant them to the DIG of the range concerned, he said.

Concurring with him was human rights activist and advocate V. Kannadasan. “This is a major decision that would strengthen the prisoners’ rights. This should be expanded to under-trial and remand prisoners,” he said. If deaths occurred on Fridays or at weekends, detenus couldn’t approach courts, he said. He called for a mechanism to deal with holidays and special occasions when courts did not function. A notification setting forth the temporary procedure was issued by the Home Department on August 19.

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