The law on the rights of the prisoners has been an evolving one. There is no comprehensive legislation to deal with prisoners rights and regulate their conduct while in jail. However, the Judiciary of the country has given due recognition to the convicts and their fundamental rights time and time again. In the absence of thorough legislation, it has managed to set precedents and principles upholding the various rights of the prisoners that not only guide but also bind all the courts in India. The main objective of prisons is to bring the offenders back to the mainstream of the society. If a person commits any crime, it does not mean that by committing crime, he ceases to be a human being and that he can deprive off those aspects of life which constitutes human dignity.
He still remains a human who should be treated like one. He should be given the basic human rights available to every man walking on the earth. But at the same time, he should not be treated as a free man with all absolute rights and luxuries. His freedom should be subject to certain limitations and legal restrictions. These restrictions, in addition, should be reasonable. The Supreme court of India has been deliberating with the central and state governments since a long time to improve the deteriorating condition of the prisoners which is fundamental because of the overcrowding of prisons, lack of training facilities, personnel and poor infrastructure, etc. Therefore, it is mandatory to invoke the rights and constitutional safeguards of the prisoners. Such rights of, unless they are propagated and implemented in each corner and the entire perimeter of the prism, are a nullity and betrayal of human faith on the criminal justice delivery system. Among these freedoms, certain freedoms except the ‘Freedom of speech and expression’ and ‘Freedom to become member of an association’ cannot be enjoyed by the prisoners because of the very nature of these freedoms.
Article 21 of the Constitution of India says that No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by the law. This Article stipulates two concepts i.e., right to life and personal liberty. By Article 21 of the Indian Constitution it is clear that its is available not only for free people but also those people behind the prison. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has repeatedly applied the rule of Article 21 in numerous cases. in the much-known case of Kharak Singh v. State of UP. In the said case, the court ruled that the term “life” connotes more than mere existence like that of an animal. It can be said that right to live is not restricted to a mere animal existence. It connotes something more than just the physical survival of a being.
Right to Privacy of prisoners and their spouses
In Rahmath Nisha v. Additional Director General of Prisoner and Others, the accused was given 10 days leave to visit his wife. But, due to serious illness, his wife was transferred to the hospital in ICU by the time he reached home. However, the police escort that accompanied the accused refused to let him visit the hospital citing that permission has been granted to visit home only. The Madras Court held that the prisoner should be allowed to visit his wife in hospital and that the meeting between him and his wife should not be monitored.
Right To Legal Aid
Legal assistance plays a significant part in the life of an accused awaiting trial or any prisoner or convicts, for that matter. The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution (1976) of India incorporated services of free legal aid as Article 39A under the head Directive Principles of State Policy. Though this Article is part of the directive principles of state policy and hence, not enforceable, the principles underlined therein are of utmost importance.
The parliament has enacted the Legal Services Authorities Act in 1987 wherein it guaranteed legal Aid. It also directed various state governments to set up Legal Aid and Advice Boards, and frame schemes aiming to provide Free Legal Aid. This was done so that the Constitutional mandate of Article 39-A could be given an effect. Justice Krishna Iyer emphatically declared that “Right to free legal aid is the State‘s duty and not Government’s charity”.
Right To Speedy Trial
It is very well said that justice delayed is justice denied. Every prisoner has a right to a speedy trial irrespective of the crime he is convicted of. Speedy trial is considered as an integral part of the criminal justice delivery system. Once a person is accused, he must be subject to speedy trials so as to punish him from the crime he committed or absolve him from it, if not proven guilty. No one should be subject to long, pending and tiresome trials as it not only violates the rights of an individual but is considered to be the denial of justice altogether. The right to a speedy trial, therefore, has become a universally recognized human right. Moreover, the right to a speedy trial is also contained under Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
In the leading landmark case HUSSAINARA KHATOON V. HOME SECRETARY, STATE OF BIHAR, it was held that speedy trial of a accused is his fundamental right under Article 21. If any person who denied his right to speedy trial can directly go to Supreme Court under Article 32 for enforcing such rights.
Right To Health And Medical Treatment
Right to health is an important right. The Constitution of India incorporates provisions guaranteeing every individual the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. In a series of judgements, the highest court of the land has held that the right to health care is a crucial element of Article 21. The Gujarat High Court in Rasikbhai Ramsing Rana v. State of Gujarat held that the right to medical treatment is one of the basic human rights that should be made available to every person. The court further guided the concerned jail authorities to take proper mental and physical health care of the prisoners which were suffering from any type of disease.
The same court, in a suo moto writ, issued guidelines to the Central government to equip all Central and District jails with facilities such as ICCU, pathology lab, proficient doctors, sufficient staff including nurses and latest instruments for medical treatment.
Right To Reasonable Wages
Whenever during the imprisonment, the prisoners are made to work in the prison, they must be paid at the reasonable rate. The wage rate should not trival or below minimum wages. In Mohammad Giasuddin . State Of A.P., the court directed the State to take into account this factor, while finalizing the rules for payment of wages to prisoners as well as to give retrospective effect to wage policy. In the matter of P.R.E. of Wages of Prisoners, the court has held that labour taken from the prisoners, which has not properly remunerated was “forced labour” and hence violative of Article 23 of the constitution.
Right To Meet Friends And Consult Lawyer
Prisoners are not only protected physically but also mentally. It is necessary for individuals to meet for the purpose of information, it’s people’s right. Consult lawyers are their legal representatives, the act done by them directly affects the convict’s case. Visiting of friends and family members give them mental stability to survive in such a worst condition where people are unknown to each other.
Right To Education
Right to education is a Fundamental Right and therefore it should be given to every citizen of the country. Along with education, it is compulsory that the right type of education should be imparted.
In Mohammad Giasuddin v. State of AP, the court tried to regulate the manner of work and education provided to the inmates of the jail. It directed the state government to look into the nature of work and education given to the prisoners and check that the work provided is “not of a monotonous, mechanical, intellectual or like type mixed with a title manual labour…”.
Moreover, basic learning such as tailoring, embroidery, doll-making should be extended to the women prisoners. In addition to that, the well-educated prisoners should be given the opportunities to engage in some sort of mental-cum-manual productive work.
Right To Receive Books/Magazines/Publication
In State of Maharashtra v. Prabhakar Pandurang Sanzgir wherein an accused detained under preventive detention was not allowed to hand over his unpublished book to his wife for publication, the court termed such an act as violative of Article 21.
In yet another case of Rajgopal v. State of Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court held that there was no authority in law that could priorly deny the permission to publish the autobiography of Auto Shanker (prisoner) under the fear or impression that it would cause defamation of prominent IAS and IPS officers. The concerned officials can take action after the publication and only if the publications are false.
Rights Of Prisoners In India Under The Prisons Act, 1894
Prisons Act of 1894 is the first legislation regarding prison regulation in India. This Act mainly focuses on the reformation of prisoners in connection with the rights of the prisoners.
Following Sections of the Prisons Act, 1894 are related to the reformation of the prisoners.
1. Accommodation and sanitary conditions for prisoners
2. Provision for the shelter and safe custody of the excess number of prisoners who cannot be safely kept in any prison
3. Provisions relating to the examination of the prisoners by qualified Medical Officer.
4. Provisions relating to separation of prisoners, containing female and male prisoners, civil and criminal prisoners and convicted and under-trial prisoners.
5. Provisions relating to the treatment of under-trials, civil prisoners, parole and temporary release of prisoners.
6. In the year of 2016, The Parliament has passed the Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2016 to amend the Prisons Act, 1894 with a view to providing protection and welfare of the prisoners.
The Prisoners Act, 1990
It is the duty of the government for the removal of any prisoner detained under any order or sentence of any court, which is of unsound mind to a lunatic asylum and other place where he will be given proper treatment.
The Transfer Of Prisoners Act, 1950
This act was passed to avoid over-population in prisons, prisoners are transferred from one state to another for vocational training and to get rid from overcrowding.
The days are gone when prisons were dungeons where prisoners were lodged to pass their days in dark cells. The prisons are no more the institutions designed to achieve only the retributive and deterrent aspects of punishment. Prisons are now the places, where the inmates are lodged not as a forgotten or forsaking members of the society but as human beings who have to go out in to their surroundings as well behaving as reformed persons.
For a prisoner, the imprisonment itself is a punishment and thus, prisons are expected to be places of rehabilitation, not places where extra punishment is added resulting into the violation of their human rights.The judiciary of the country has played a crucial role in safeguarding the rights of prisoners whenever the legislative and executive have erred. It has acted as the saviour of the convicts and upheld their fundamental rights time and time again. It has thoroughly exercised its powers through judicial activism and has repeatedly devised new remedies and tools to protect the human’s right to life and personal liberty.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
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