KOLKATA: Rights organizations have criticized the state government for its move to prevent high-risk prisoners from meeting “friends”. The jails department has restricted access to such prisoners following home department inputs that they could “hatch conspiracies against senior leaders”. Activists and rights groups slammed the circular calling it illegal. “It is against the law. Without amending the law, such circular can’t be passed,” said vice-president of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights Ranjit Sur. The government’s move goes against the West Bengal Correctional Services Act, 1992, they say. According to Section 51(1) of the Act, “Every prisoner shall have the right to have such number of interviews with his friends and relatives, not being less than one in a month.”
The Act also allows prisoners to meet legal representatives. But, a circular issued in December last year, which prisons have begun implementing recently, has struck off the word “friends” from the list of people allowed to meet prisoners marked as high risk. The idea was to restrict “communication with frontal organizations” of banned outfits such as CPI-Maoist. “Often, members of these organizations met Maoists as friends,” said a jail official.
The state security establishment reportedly collected inputs that such meetings provided high-risk prisoners channels of communication with outside world. “It is suspected that some prisoners were plotting conspiracies during such meetings,” said a senior officer. The restriction applies to around 450 prisoners. The circular is meant primarily for those convicted or charged for involvement in terrorist activities, sedition and waging war against the state. In protest against the circular, six Maoists went on a hunger strike in Dum Dum central jail last week.