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Regulation Of Prison Labour And The Prisoners Act, 1894

The Prisoners Act, 1894 came into existence in order to regulate the prisoners. It is one of the key legislations where the police & lawyers should understand the process. In this article, let us have a look on what are the labour rights that a prisoners can have as per the prisoners Act, 1894. Firstly, the Sec. 11[1] of the Act, which deals about the Superintendent says that as per the orders of the Inspector General (IG), the Superintendent need to manage all the matters relating to prison especially with respect to discipline, labour, expenditure, punishment and control. This provision says that Superintendent is the authority who manages all the matters respect to the prison labour.

Further, Sec. 15 of the Act[2] deals about the report on death of prisoner. The medical officer shall record the particulars on the death of the prisoners. The provision specially mentions that in case if the prisoner does or engaged in any activity related to labour on the day of his death occurred then the medical officer shall compulsorily record it.

The Sec. 24 of the Act[3] states that prisoner shall be examined on admission. In this provision, it is stated that the after the admission, prisoner shall also as soon as possible examined by proper medical officer and the same needed to be entered in a jailer record book regarding the class of labour that he thinks fit. Hence, the medical officer can also make an observation and can give directions about the labour class of prisoner and where he can work.

Further, Sec. 26 of the Act[4] speaks about the removal & discharge of prisoners. This provision states that prisoner cannot be removed without medical officer report. Also, one person cannot be removed from one prison to other without the same report. Even without the opinion of medical expert, no prisoner can discharge from prison against his will.

Further, Sec. 35 of the Act[5] states about the employment of prisoners who have criminal charges. This provision clearly states that the one prisoner cannot work more than nine hours per day except in emergency circumstances declared by the Superintendent.

Also, the medical expert from shall examine about laboring prisoners from time to time and at least once in every two weeks to be recorded of each prisoner employment based on weight. In case the medical expert has any opinion about like any prisoner cannot do a particular labour activity then medical expert may recommend that he or she cannot suit for such labour. Then upon such opinion, the relevant prisoner shall not be employed in such labour activity.

Next, the Sec. 26 of the Act[6] which states about employment of prisoners who were sentenced to simple imprisonment. But the prisoners shall not be punished for neglect of labour work except under certain exceptions made in the rules of prison.

Further, Sec. 45 of the Act[7] speaks about the offences in prison. Like it specifies few acts like willful disobedience, assault or criminal force usage, make threatening or using insulting kind of language, performing any act with immoral behavior and willfully disabling from labour. Hence, willfully disabling from labour can be a prison offence. Further, Sec. 46 of the Act[8] states about the punishment for these offences.

Upon the instructions of Superintendent, the prisoner will be punished initially with formal warning then in case of hard labour can be punished not exceeding seven days in case of simple imprisonment. The Superintendent can also take action on irksome activities. There may be also a separate confinement for three to four months. Also, they may impose restrictions on panel diet with some exception of not more than ninety days. More over Sec. 47 of the Act[9] speaks about the plurality of punishment i.e., which elaborates on no two punishments can be made at once. It specifically mentions that panel diet shall not be combined with labour activities.

When it comes to fitness of the prisoner, Medical officer need to give certificate for fitness, competency and change of labour. Also he needs to check the capability of prisoner to undergo any punishment. The same has been explained in section 50 of the Act[10]. Lastly, Sec. 59(14) of the Act[11] states about the state government power regarding to make rules for classifying and regulating the labour.

Judicial Pronouncements[12]:
There are different issues with respect to the prisoner labour. If we discuss in depth in one famous case, The court not only stressed that a convict is entitled to the right guaranteed by article 21 but it (court) also relied heavily upon article 21, inter alia , to hold that a prisoner cannot either be subjected to unwarranted physical or mental restraint or to a cruel or torturous punishment.[13]

The Andhra Pradesh High Court, in the Vijaykumar case[14], denying that article 23 of the Constitution forms the basis for the assertion that a prisoner has a right to be paid wages, argued that even payment of wages by the state to a prisoner compelled to do hard labour does not alter the forced character of the labour extracted from the prisoner.

However, his Lordship, relying heavily upon tenor of article 21 of the Constitution and recalling the punitive policy of section 53, IPC, held that a prisoner has the right to earn his livelihood and to preserve his life and the state, in turn, has a corresponding obligation to provide work to the prisoner and to pay him, unless there is a valid law enacted by the Legislature, and found by the constitutional courts to be fair and reasonable, authorizing the state to deny the payment, for the work extracted from him.

It, in the absence of such an authorization either in section 53, IPC, or any other statute, held that the extraction of hard labour from a prisoner without payment of fair wages violates the prisoner's right guaranteed in article 21 of the Constitution.

The SC asserted that the mere detention does not deprive the convicts of all the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution[15]. In 1977, the SC stressed for the rehabilitation of prisoners and reformation of prisons[16].

The court held that the fact that a person is legally in prison does not prevent the use of Habeas Corpus to protect his other inherent rights[17]. In one case the court held that no person shall be hand-cuffed, fettered routinely for convince of the custodian’s escort[18]. The right to fair treatment and right of judicial remedy are pre-requisites of administration of prison justice[19]. The Court adopted a dynamic and constructive role with regard prison reforms. Court apart from other things stressed on the improvements of the conditions of the prisons in India[20]

The Supreme Court in U.S. in Manna v. People of Illinois[21] said that life is not merely animal existence. The souls behind the bar can’t be denied the same. The rights guaranteed by Art.21 are for every person and not even the state could deny it. Prisoners also have all the rights which a free man has under some restrictions. Just being in prison doesn’t deprive them from their fundamental rights.

Hence, we can say that the prisoners are also the humans and they have also fundamental rights as ensured in the constitution with the exceptions. We can’t deprive them but can rehabilitate by engaging them in labour works.

End-Notes:
  1. Section11 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
  2. Section 15 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
  3. Section 24 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
  4. Section 26 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
  5. Section 35 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
  6. Section 26 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
  7. Section 45 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
  8. Section 46 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
  9. Section 47 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
  10. Section 50 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
  11. Section 59(14) of the Prisoners Act, 1894
  12. Rights of Prisoners (2020). Available at: http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-75-rights-of-prisoners.html (Accessed: 6 June 2020).
  13. Inderjeet v. State of U. P., AIR 1979 SC 1867.
  14. P. Bhaskara Vijaykumar v. Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1988 AP 295.
  15. D.B.M.Patnaik v. State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1974 SC 2092.
  16. Hiralal Mallick v. State of Bihar, AIR 1977 SC 2237
  17. Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, AIR 1978 SC 1675
  18. Prem Shankar Shukla v. Delhi Administration, AIR 1980 SC 1535
  19. R.D. Upadhyay v. State of A.P and ors. AIR 2001 SC 437
  20. Hussain Ara Khatun v. State of Bihar, AIR 1979 SC 1377
  21. Manna v. people of Illinois, 94 US 113 (1876).
Written by:
  1. Kadimisetty Sai Sreenadh, Final year students of Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam and
    Email: [email protected]
     
  2. CVN Sai Chand, Final year students of Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam.
    Email: [email protected]

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