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Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: The NHRC has sent notices to all states and Union Territories seeking details of children languishing in jails with their imprisoned mothers, after the case of 46 such children living in Odisha prisons without proper facilities for their upbringing came to light.

The National Human Rights Commission in a statement today said it has "taken suo motu cognisance of a media report about the plight of 46 boys and girls, aged between one month and six years, who are living in prisons in the state of Odisha with their mothers, including nine convicted and 36 undertrial prisoners".

Accordingly, the Commission has issued notices to the chief secretaries and directors general of prisons of all the states and Union territories seeking reports along with statistics, showing how many children were being kept with their mothers in the jails under their jurisdiction, without ensuring facilities, necessary for psychological and physical growth as well as educational upbringing.

"The response from all the states and Union territories is expected within six weeks," the NHRC said in the statement.

According to the media report carried yesterday, these children include 25 girls and 21 boys.

Out of the 45 mothers, 30 belong to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, "amount to human rights violations of the innocent children".

"Reportedly, the children, lodged in the jails with their mothers, are neither convicts nor under trials and they are entitled to food, shelter, medical care, clothing, education and recreational facilities, but nothing is being provided to them despite the Supreme Court guidelines," the statement said.

"The guidelines set by the Supreme Court are very clear, providing proper protection to such children, but as reported, it appears, the ground reality is different. The instant news report is focused on the prisons in the state of Odisha. However, there could be similar cases in the jails of other states too, which have not yet been noticed," it said.

As reported, the apex court has formulated guidelines that the cases of women prisoners with children, should be disposed of expeditiously but the reality is different. There are many inmates who have been granted bail by the competent court but they cannot be freed as they are unable to furnish the sureties, the statement said.

The guidelines set by the apex court also ensure that children aged below three years shall be allowed to kept in creche and those between 2-3 years, should be looked after in a nursery, run by the prisons authorities, outside the prison premises and that small children should not be kept in sub-jails, unless facilities are ensured for their biological, psychological and social growth, the rights panel said.

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