Women in custody wait for escorts to accompany them to court.

BANGALORE: The Parappana Agrahara in the city is housing women who are awaiting trial. With the hearings for the charges being continually delayed, their time in prison is growing longer and more difficult. Strangely enough, there are not enough female escorts available for the undertrials to accompany them to court, according to central prison authorities. In these situations, women must be escorted, and prison officials are having trouble finding staff to accompany the undertrials to court. The situation has recently been exacerbated by the use of female constables who are employed by the city services and who also serve as escorts. Only 22 women served as escorts, compared to 60 women who had already been convicted, 140 women who were still awaiting trial, and 14 children. In murder and cheating cases, many women have received convictions. Many undertrial inmates, many of whom have young children with them, spend additional time in jail and away from their families while waiting to be hauled to court on hearing dates, according to advocate Sheela Ramanathan, who works for women prisoners. “Some of the women are arrested under Section 294 (obscene acts in a public place) of the Indian Penal Code. They are usually sex workers, and even if convicted, may not serve such long terms,” she said. Prolonged confinement in jail affects undertrials psychologically, as they have to stay in isolation and away from their family. Most of the women are uneducated, and unaware of their rights, or even the dates of their cases. The underprivileged ones are unable to pay surety to get bail, said Ramanathan. Prison superintendent M C Vishwanathya admitted that at the time of hearing in courts, women constables on duty are unable to escort the undertrials, though only two are required per prisoner. Sometimes, the escorts have to come from the district or city police stations. The Committee Against Violence On Women (CAVOW), an all-India body consisting of women’s organizations and individual members, filed a PIL on October 10, 2006, so that women undertrials are taken to court on the day of hearing. The PIL was filed against the department of home, deputy director of police, principal secretary for women and child welfare and inspector general of prisons. ADGP (Prisons) Dharmapal Negi said women escorts are unavailable when there is a security problem. ���Otherwise, the undertrials are escorted to court and cases are getting disposed of,��� he claimed.

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