HC stays 25% wage cut of convicts in Del jails

NEW DELHI: on Monday stayed the practice of deduction of earned by inmates from manual labour inside Delhi prisons. The money was deposited in a fund for welfare of victims.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao granted the interim stay after being informed by Delhi State Legal Services Authority that till March this year accumulated a corpus of Rs 15 crores, out of which it could only spend a little over Rs 80 lakh on 194 eligible victims.

It further told HC that while the law makes a distinction between an and a , and the deductions were only to be made from wages of the latter, Tihar Jail had also cut wages of undertrials who voluntarily do odd jobs in the complex.

In an affidavit, DSLSA recommended that the scheme of deducting wages earned by inmates who do manual labour inside jail should be discontinued, more so as since 2015 a revised Victim Compensation Scheme has been prevalent in Delhi. It suggested that the corpus can be transferred to the fund maintained by the authority under the aegis of Delhi government, out of which money is given to victims. It also underlined that the wages are even lower than the minimum wages fixed by the Delhi government.

HC saw merit in the submissions of DSLSA that came on a petition challenging a 2006 notification of Delhi Prison Rules of 1988, which had first introduced the deduction from wages.

Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Ajay Verma had argued in court that the practice of deducting 25% of the convicts? wages towards the victim welfare fund was illegal and arbitrary. HC had earlier questioned Tihar Jail authorities on these deductions, saying it was the government?s obligation to set up such a corpus. It had told the director general of prisons that jail administration ?cannot do something which was not permissible under the law?, pointing out that the prison authority was assuming the power of a convicting court, which imposes the costs or fines on a convict.

DSLSA in its report argued that no purpose is now served for keeping such a fund when Section 357-A now in CrPC since 2009 provides for compensation to victims and their dependents.

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