Mumbai: In an unusual move, the Uttarakhand home secretary issued a government order on February 12 posting five Indian Police Service (IPS) officers as superintendents of central, district and sub jails. Before this notification, to ensure that prisoners do not have to deal with the police while in judicial custody, Uttarakhand, like most other states, would draw its prison officials from a separate state cadre. But the recent order has blurred that line, and many human rights defenders claim that such a move will only increase violative control over prisoners.

A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed against the government’s decision before the Uttarakhand high court. Petitioner Sanjeev Kumar, a practicing lawyer and rights activist based in Udham Singh Nagar district, has moved the court after five IPS officers were given additional charge of the prisons as senior superintendent at Sittarganj, Haldwani, Haridwar, Dehradun and Roorkee jails. The officials sent on special deputation to the prisons include Ramchandra Rajguru, Prahlad Narayan Meena, Navneet Singh, Shweta Chaubey and Pradeep Kumar Rai.

This decision, contradicting provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Jail (Group A and B) Service Rules, 1982, would give police officials direct access to prisoners beyond police custody. So far, barring the Inspector General-level officials, other prison officials were drawn from the separate state services. The IG prisons are usually IPS officials, but the common argument is that senior officials seldom come in direct contact with prisoners and would not be able to wield pressure.

Kumar says this infringes upon both the legal and fundamental rights of those incarcerated. His petition raises a serious concern of growing violative action against those arrested. “It is widely known that in police custody, violative tactics are used to extract information from the arrested persons. Imagine now if the police officials end up being placed in prisons. This move will prove disastrous,” Kumar says.

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