Wednesday April 17, 2024

Adiala report

By Editorial Board
January 20, 2022

The Ministry of Human Rights has done a good job by revealing details about corrupt practices at Rawalpindi’s Central Jail. According to the interim report of the ministry’s fact-finding committee, a culture of lawlessness is prevalent in the jail. The ministry submitted the report to IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Jan 12. Though overcrowding in most jails across the country is a common practice, Adiala jail is breaking new grounds by cramming over 5,700 prisoners against a capacity of just over two thousand. That is nearly three times the number that the jail can easily accommodate. The credit for the initiation of this fact-finding goes to an inmate who complained to the court alleging that some influential prisoners were involved in bribing the jail administration. The petitioner had alleged that these influential prisoners were availing unauthorised perks as the jail administration received gratification in exchange for these privileges. Some criminals were even running businesses from inside the jail while some others were able to convene meetings inside the premises of the prison. The report has confirmed these allegations.

It is one of the fundamental principles of law that jail authorities must not treat their prisoners in accordance with the criminal’s financial status. Neither should their political influence play any role in the treatment any jail inmates receive from jail officials. When jail authorities start taking favours from prisoners, criminals are bound to have a field day. According to the report, the jail authorities have acknowledged to the committee that there is immense political pressure by the influential elite to accommodate prisoners for facilitation. This admission can in no way absolve the jail authorities of their complicity in these practices. So far as the pressure goes, even the judiciary and the police come under certain pressures, but it is up to them to resist the pressure. If something is not admissible under existing laws, authorities must not bend the rules to accommodate a lenient treatment for some selected prisoners. If law-enforcement agencies themselves start giving preferential treatment to certain individuals, bribery and corruption will prevail at all levels.

There is a need for an environment that treats everyone equally, irrespective of their status. Then there is also the question of postings and transfers that higher authorities use as a tool for arm-twisting of junior staff. If higher authorities force their subordinates – as the report highlights – to extract undue favours for certain prisoners, the justice system itself is at stake. There is a need to reform prisoners in jail, but rather than reforming criminals they get all the facilities of a private citizen as if they are free. The report has also highlighted the fact that some jail inmates are also running their land-grabbing businesses from inside the prison and pay huge sums to jail authorities for allowing their activities. There is also a need to reactivate in all jails their mostly dormant internal complaint mechanisms. An important step forward could be allowing the media access to the jail premises, so the miseries of inmates get some attention. Now there is a need to reform the entire jail system across the country, as it has become a rotten system that needs major surgery.