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On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of India served notices to the Union government and 11 states in response to a journalist’s plea. The journalist alleges that prison manuals in these regions foster caste-based discrimination among incarcerated individuals.

Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, along with Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, formed the bench and requested Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to provide assistance. The petitioner’s counsel, Senior Advocate S Muralidhar, contended that instances exist where Dalits are reportedly segregated into distinct prison cells, while individuals from other castes are held in separate areas.

Recognizing the significance of the matter, the bench directed the compilation of State manuals into a tabulated chart for future consideration. The court plans to hear the case at a later date. Notices were issued not only to the Union government but also to the states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Odisha, Jharkhand, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra.

Acknowledging the severity of the concerns raised by Sukanya Shantha, the court expressed its commitment to addressing the issue. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, while expressing unfamiliarity with such discrimination, deemed the alleged situation ‘unacceptable.’ He emphasized the necessity for collaborative efforts to effectively tackle the issue.

Sukanya Shantha, in her petition, highlighted the persistence of caste-based discrimination in prison barracks, extending to manual labor assignments and adversely affecting notified tribes and those classified as habitual offenders. She urged the court to issue appropriate directives to authorities, urging the repeal of discriminatory provisions in various State prison manuals.