Sunday, August 23, 2009

What about elderly people’s rights? 23 prisoners over 70 years in different jails

There are 43 criminal cases under trial in the city courts in which the accused have crossed the age of 70 years, Daily Times learnt on Saturday after collecting data from the records of different wings of the city courts.

According to the data, there are at least 23 prisoners in different jails of Karachi including central jail, whose ages are more than 70 years.

The interesting fact is that cases of most of the imprisoned elders are pending due to one reason are the other.

There are at least three people in the Central Jail imprisoned in criminal cases, who claim they have crossed the age of 80. The official records cited by Daily Times say most of the under trial cases are of criminal nature.

Among the 23 imprisoned people, three have been put behind bars for alleged murders and six others in fraud and dacoiti cases.

The interesting thing that the documents reveal is that all the murder cases against these people are pending.

There are some cases that are pending for as long as the last six years.

One murder case according to the files in which an elder man Majid has killed the relatives of her daughter is pending for the last nine years.

The interesting thing that the record shows is that though the president has announced 90 days remission in the sentences of those who have crossed ages of 65 years, on the eve of Independence Day, none of them could take advantage as their cases are under trial.

Social workers demand some law should be drafted to protect ‘elders’ from embarrassment in jail and in case someone commits crime should be sent to some special place like the Youth Offenders Jails. It is interesting to know that there are many NGOs working for the protection of children’s rights, but so far no organisation has surfaced for the protection of rights of the elderly people.

Due to lack of lobbying and pressure from civil society many of our elders, who require rest at this stage are limping behind the bars.

Though the trials move at a pretty slow pace in the courts it is the absence of special laws for the protection of the rights of elders alleged of crime that make the things worse for them.

Most of such cases manage to escape the preying eyes of media and high ups.

Advocate Mian Abdal, who has been involved in the social work activities and provides free services to the financially poor people, said, it’s a routine that cases take years to decide.

However he quickly adds that courts should not be completely blamed, as they are over-burdened, he demanded from the government to make special laws like the one drafted for the protection of the rights of children.

“Look at the Juvenile Justice Ordinance, as an example,” he went on to say.

Psychologists on the other hand say that keeping elderly people in prison for longer periods of time causes not only physical but also mental complications for them.

“This creates hatred in them for the society as a whole,” says Sadaf Mahjabeen, a clinical psychologist, who has been dealing with such cases for the last 12 years.

“Most of them when released, even if acquitted in the cases, try to commit suicide or avoid public gatherings,” she narrated her past experiences.

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