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Examining The Fair Remuneration Rights Of Prisoners

The definition of "prisoner" as stated in Section 1 of the 1992 Prison Security Act. The definition of "prisoner" in this Section states that "any person for the time being in prison as a result of any requirement imposed by a court or otherwise that he be detained in a legal custody" is a prisoner. The primary goals of India's criminal strategy are the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates.

Giving prisoners the ability to work and earn money helps to implement this programme because it enables prisoners to pay for daily expenses, make investments in their rehabilitation, send money to their families, and act responsibly as citizens. Given how widespread crime is, the issue of how to deal with offenders arises. Should we punish offenders severely or should we try reformation and rehabilitation as a more humane alternative? The reformation will aid in developing the requisite abilities and teaching responsibility.

Though it served as a grim reminder of the depressing reality of Indian inmates' rights and punitive measures when the Calcutta High Court ruled in June 20200 that jail authorities are not compelled to pay prisoners the minimum salary rate.

In the case of State State of Gujarat and Anr. v. Hon'ble High Court of Gujarat (1998), the High Court was not wrong because all it was doing was adhering to the Supreme Court of India's order. The same justification underlies both of the aforementioned rulings: inmates are not compelled to be paid at least the minimum wage rate by the jail administration.

Convicts may be forced to work as a form of punishment in addition to being imprisoned as required by law, notwithstanding India's harsh penal policy. They receive a paltry salary in return, which is fixed by their state governments at their discretion. This article aims to show how state governments can shift their obligations to the prisoners, infringing on their fundamental rights, as a result of the Supreme Court's ruling on the minimum wage rate, the ability to deduct prison expenses, and victim compensation funds. This decision significantly reduces the effectiveness of the criminal strategy of reform and rehabilitation and adds significant burden on the already low earnings of prisoners.

Understanding the Legal Framework Surrounding Prisoners' Right to Fair Wages

Since independence, Article 21 of the Constitution has guaranteed every free Indian citizen the right to live in dignity, while Article 23 of the Constitution forbids forced labour and guarantees a minimum salary. On the other hand, the country's independence had little effect on the captives' rights.

Despite the fact that forced labour was unlawful, Section 53 of the Indian Penal Code 1860-which permits hard labour while a person is imprisoned-remains in effect. Additionally, there was no mechanism in place to safeguard detainees' right to wages. An unpredictory system-payment system evolved over time. For comparable services, some jurisdictions paid a predetermined percentage of the market rate, while others only offered tips.

In Mohammad Giasuddin v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1977), the Supreme Court commanded the state government to pay the prisoner and assign him "congenial labour." The fact that inmates' "unpaid work is bonded labour and demeaning" was addressed for the first time.

The high courts in Gujarat, Kerala, and Gujarat [Cri. Ref. No. 2 of 1984], Himachal Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh all held that states must increase wages to a reasonable level in accordance with the minimum wage law in order to achieve the goal of prisoner reform and rehabilitation. This is true even for those serving lengthy sentences.

All of these decisions were overruled by the Supreme Court in the case of the State of Gujarat and Anr. v. Hon'ble High Court of Gujarat (1998) held that jail authorities are not required to pay prisoners the minimum wage rate.

Prisoner wages continue to be low because of the inherent problems with not providing the appropriate implementation of minimum wage rates. According to Prison Statistics India (2019), despite the fact that the national minimum salary of Rs. 100 was met in the year of 2019, nearly ten states and 5 UTs are still paying unskilled inmates less than Rs. 100 per day in wages. 13 states pay even less than Rs. 50, the research said.

If the goal is for a prisoner to reform through employment possibilities, how can we expect them to feel motivated with such a small income? Is it possible for them to support their family on such a salary while still saving for their rehabilitation?

Examining the Issue of Deductions and Its Impact on Prisoners' Rights

When the Supreme Court grants states the power to deduct costs, prisoners are in effect compelled to pay for their own detention, which is a violation of their rights. When a person is in the state's custody, it is the duty of the government to provide for their fundamental needs.

In several decisions, which include Charles Sobaraj v. Supdt Central Jail Tihar, DBM Patnaik v. State of Andhra Pradesh, State of Maharashtra v. Prabhakar Pandurang Sanzgir, State of Andhra Pradesh v. Challa Ramkrishna Reddy, and Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, the Supreme Court has stated that prisoners retain their fundamental rights.

According to Article 21, the state has a duty to protect the dignity of a prisoner's life by providing clothing, companionship through reading, nourishing food, writing, shelter, and other expressive forms, mixing with other prisoners, and other activities (Francis Coralie Mullin v. Delhi Administration). A complete bench of the Gujarat High Court referred to the practice of collecting money from prisoners for subsistence items like food and clothing that are neither of reasonable value nor the prisoner's choice as being uncivilized in Jail Reforms Committee v. State of Gujarat.

The Clash Between Deductions for Victims' Compensation Fund and Penal Policy

The 1998 ruling also supported a contribution to a victim aid fund. Even 23 years after the judgement, our criminal justice system has not yet created a victim-sensitive framework. The Hon'ble Court did a fantastic job of defining the position of victims in India. Mandatory deductions from inmates' salaries, however, are just a means for the government to shift responsibility when the problem is its inefficiency.

The court's decision will guide how much cash would be awarded to a "deserving" victim by the jail administration. Who will be deemed a worthy victim by the prison authorities, and may a victim be considered to be less worthy? Is it appropriate for the prison staff, who have received training in caring for convicts, to also handle interacting with victims?

If the jail administration is able to distribute compensation from the fund successfully, can daily withdrawals from convicts' dismal earnings be sufficient to provide victims with enough and effective support? More than Rs 14 crore of the Rs 15 crore amassed for the victim compensation fund had gone unused, according to a PIL that was filed in the Delhi High Court [W.P.(C) 1952/2018].

The Delhi State Legal Services Authority has opposed to such a deduction from convicts' wages, claiming that it is "unreasonable or warranted" in light of the fact that the Delhi government has already established a victim's compensation plan in accordance with section 357A of the Criminal Procedure Code. According to the Legal Services Authority, there would be no benefit to having a separate victim welfare fund with the jails.

The Supreme Court's decision, however, defines victim deductions as funding "constructive thinking," which provides victims with the advantages of restorative and reparative theories. It's alluring, but keep in mind that the goals of restorative and reparative justice philosophy are to administer justice using other mechanisms. One of the main pillars of these systems, as opposed to the mandatory income deductions from inmates, is the voluntary participation of the accused and victim.

Prison Policy of Reformation and Rehabilitation: Consistency Minimum Wages for Prisoners

Although the SC judgment required that adequate salaries be paid without respect to the minimum wage rate, the three judges on the bench concurred with this directive, though their justifications varied. Additionally, it shows that this court intervention was conducted without consideration for the penal policy of our criminal justice system.

Justice Wadhwa determined that the punishment of hard labor fell outside the purview of Article 23. It was believed that the prohibition on compelled labor only applied to "social practices," not to the government. This is a very constrained view of a fundamental right. The Constitutional guarantees of fundamental rights cannot be violated by anyone, not even the government. Additionally, the judgement incorrectly relies on a statement made by Dr. Ambedkar that was stated in the context of a free citizen.

Last but not least, Justice Wadhwa issues a warning: if prison turns into a place where people may make good money, the purpose of punishment will be compromised, and society will learn that crime pays. This viewpoint minimizes the value of living in freedom and downplays the extent of suffering experienced by prisoners. Additionally, this claim is incompatible with criminal policy, which sees prison as a place where offenders can undergo reform. This assertion also conflicts with criminal law, which views jail as a setting for offenders to undergo reform.

According to the Model Prison Manual, the main objective of jail is reform, and it acknowledges that prisoners have a right to a major and worthwhile task as well as payment for their labor. Prison work was never meant to be a punishment unto itself. In order to give inmates a sense of dignity and empowerment during the reformation process, wages become a crucial component.

The judicial directives in the 1998 SC judgment only serve to deviate from that goal when prison manuals have consistently maintained such clarity regarding the objective of prisoners' employment and the utilization of their income. Since our nation gained its independence seven decades ago, the judiciary has been unable to balance the question of prisoner compensation with the prohibition on forced labor and the legal need to ensure that everyone receives a minimum salary.

Since our nation gained its independence seven decades ago, the judiciary has been unable to balance the question of prisoner compensation with the prohibition on forced labor and the legal need to ensure that everyone receives a minimum salary.

The government's and the judiciary's interference exposes their overly ambitious nature in choosing to use short cuts to keep up with advancements in the field of criminal justice without taking into account the resulting injustice to prisoners or, more importantly, the government's own penal policy of reform and rehabilitation As a result, the prisoner's little, damaged boat of meager wages shouldn't be forced to support their requirements and those of their family.

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