Dismissed petition could have led to prison system overhaul

Lahore High Court

Staff Report

The Asma Jahangir (AGHS) Legal Aid Cell had filed a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) for court intervention regarding the overpopulation of prisons and the related threat of contagion – the spread of coronavirus among the inmates was expected as a worst-case scenario, due to the prisoners’ forced and close proximity with each another.

However, just a day earlier the LHC had already independently passed a notification directing the lower judiciary to grant bails to inmates who were currently undergoing trial, or facing sentences of less than 10 years. Because of this notification, the petition had become infructuous and the court ended up in dismissing it.

Fortunately, the cause being propagated in the petition was served and more importantly, the plight of prisoners living in deprecating overpopulated conditions was brought to the limelight.

The dismissed petition could have been an opportunity for a much more substantive overhaul of the entire prison system as the changes that would have been brought about by the proposed directions to the prison authorities, would have had long term ramifications for the entire criminal justice system.

However since these accompanying issues were not addressed by the Court and the petition was thrown out on the presumption that the cause has been completely served, the potential change it envisaged, remains elusive as yet.