An RTI first, prisoner to Patil
By HT, Thursday October 11, 01:13 AM

THE RIGHT to information law has finally penetrated the prison walls prompting the Union home minister to respond to prisoners' queries. An undertrial lodged in a Punjab jail wanted to know what Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil wrote in his letter to the chief ministers on prison reforms. He would get a copy of the letter in 30 days.

The prisoner, Iqbal Singh, sent his request to Shivraj Patil's office on September 26. The letter was received by the office and was forwarded to the concerned department for a response. The home ministry, last year, received 155 applications under the RTI Act and has responded to all but 14 cases.

"This does seem to be the first case of a prisoner demanding information from the home ministry," an official said, recalling their astonishment when they noticed the sender's address at the end of request. Singh is lodged at the Central Jail in Ludhiana. A jail official said Singh was a teacher and had been arrested nearly three or four years ago. He wanted a certified copy of the letter that the home minister had written to chief ministers a few weeks earlier on the management and decongesting of jails.

Patil had brought to their notice the central initiatives to help states modernise prisons and reduce overcrowding. One of the points made by the home ministry was an amendment to the law enabling undertrials, accused of offences other than those punishable by death, to be released on personal surety if they have been jailed for at least half the maximum period of imprisonment provided for the offence.

A home ministry official said that Singh seemed to be particularly interested in this section of the letter. A central jail official said that Iqbal Singh must have handed over his application to someone for mailing it to the home minister along with the Rs 10 postal order, the RTI fee.
An RTI first, prisoner to Patil - Yahoo! India News