INTRODUCTION: The term “prisoner” refers to somebody who is detained in a jail or prison for committing a crime against the law of the land. A prisoner, also known as an inmate, is someone who has their liberty taken away from them against their will. Forceful restraint or confinement can revoke this liberty. Prisoners’ rights refer to the rights of inmates when they are incarcerated. Fundamental legal rights cannot be taken away from prisoners. The right to food and drink, the access to an attorney to defend him, and protection from torture, violence, and racial harassment are all essential rights.
The law governing inmates’ rights has evolved throughout time. It is a national disgrace that a country like India lacks defined legislation on prisoners’ rights. There is also no comprehensive legislation that addresses prisoners’ rights and governs their behavior while incarcerated. The country’s judiciary, on the other hand, has repeatedly given the inmates proper respect and upheld their fundamental rights. In the absence of comprehensive law, it has established precedents and principles defending prisoners’ rights that not only advise but also bind other Indian courts.
RIGHTS OF PRISONERS: A human’s conviction does not make him non-human. He is still a person who needs to be treated with respect. He should be granted the same basic human rights as every other guy on the planet. At the same time, he should not be treated as if he were a free man with all of life’s amenities. His liberty should be subject to some limitations and legal constraints. Furthermore, these limitations must be appropriate.
For a long time, the Supreme Court of India has been deliberating with the central and state governments to improve the deteriorating conditions of the prisoners, which is critical due to overcrowding in prisons, a lack of training facilities, personnel, and poor infrastructure, among other factors. As a result, it is necessary to invoke the inmates’ rights and constitutional protections. Such rights are a nullity and betrayal of human faith in the criminal justice delivery system unless they are spread and applied in each corner and throughout the whole perimeter of the prism.
FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS: In India, fundamental rights are at the heart of the human rights system. They are citizens’ fundamental rights that cannot be taken away under any circumstances. Some of these rights are also guaranteed to convicts in the country’s law, such as Articles 14, 19, and 21. It cannot, however, impose all of the fundamental rights to the benefit of the detainees. The heart of Article 21 is the right to a fair trial for convicts. Article 19(5) requires reasonableness in any restriction, and expansive discretion that devolves into arbitrary discrimination is anathema to Article 14. All of these assertions are backed up by several lower court and higher court judgments.
RIGHT TO PRIVACY: One of the most important rights that Indian citizens have is the right to privacy. They are an integral aspect of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution’s Right to Life and Personal Liberty. They have also been made applicable to inmates and convicts as a result of numerous court decisions over the years.
This right, however, is possibly the most frequently abused in India. The right to privacy in the context of search and seizure was first raised in the 1950s when the Supreme Court of India declared that search and seizure do not violate Article 19 (1)(f) of the Indian Constitution and that a single search does not cancel or undermine an individual’s right to property. Even if a search or seizure affects such a right, the effect is only temporary, and it is to be interpreted as a legitimate restriction on individual rights.
SOLITARY CONFINEMENT AND BAR FETTERS: Solitary confinement is a type of imprisonment in which the offender is housed in a separate cell with little or no contact with other convicts. Aside from that, the individual’s routines and behavior are closely monitored. Solitary confinement is intended to teach renowned criminals discipline and to protect other inmates from them.
RIGHT TO PERSONAL LIFE AND LIBERTY: In a number of cases, the Supreme Court has applied the rule of Article 21 and emphasized its significance in others. It has broadened the meaning of the term “life” as defined by Field J. in the well-known case of Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh. In this case, the court decided that the term “life” refers to more than only physical existence, such as that of an animal. The resistance to its deprivation spreads to all of the limbs and faculties that allow us to enjoy life. The rule also prohibits the amputation of an arm or leg, the removal of an eye, or the destruction of any other part of the body through which the soul communicates with the other world. It is possible to argue that the right to life does not apply only to animals. It denotes something more than a person’s physical survival.
RIGHT TO LIVE WITH DIGNITY: The constitution guarantees a human being’s right to live in dignity. The convicts have this right as well because their mere conviction does not make them monstrous. This right is an important aspect of the Indian constitution’s provision of the right to life. The concept is that every person’s life is valuable, and regardless of their circumstances, they should be treated with dignity to assist them to continue living.
RIGHT TO A SPEEDY TRIAL: Justice delayed is justice denied, as the saying goes. Regardless of the offence for which he is convicted, every prisoner has the right to a speedy trial. A speedy trial is seen as an essential component of the criminal justice system. No one should be subjected to protracted, drawn-out, and exhausting trials since it not only violates an individual’s rights but also constitutes a denial of justice. Furthermore, Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure guarantees the right to a timely trial.
RIGHT TO LEGAL AID: Legal aid is essential in the life of an accused awaiting trial, as well as any prisoner or convict for that matter. Free legal aid was introduced as Article 39A under the heading Directive Principles of State Policy in India’s 42nd Amendment to the Constitution (1976). Despite the fact that this item is part of the directive principles of state policy and hence not enforceable, the ideas it highlights are vital.
RIGHT AGAINST INHUMAN TREATMENT: Every prisoner has the right to be safeguarded from all forms of cruel and inhumane treatment. In various cases, the Supreme Court of India has emphasized the harsh treatment of inmates and urged state and jail officials to monitor and regulate the situation. The use of tools such as handcuffs, chains, irons, and straitjackets in punishing the convicts was also outlawed by the court. Other forms of constraint are acceptable, but only under limited circumstances.
CONCLUSION: When people are imprisoned, they do not lose their humanity. The Supreme Court of India, as well as many other Indian courts, have reaffirmed this position in a number of cases to ensure that prisoners do not become victims. And they are put in a good rehabilitation setting to help them grow and become better people. The federal and state governments must not only provide acceptable living circumstances for prisoners but also teach them about their rights so that they are not violated by the power inside the prison.
However, there is still more to be done. In this regard, mass distribution of human rights to inmates, extensive media coverage of prisoners, and round-the-clock surveillance in prisons could be some of the keys to protecting prisoners’ rights and ensuring their secure confinement.
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