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Major 2019 Judgments On The Rights Of Prisoners

The jurisprudence of rights of prisoners in India has been an evolving one. From Sunil Batra to Re Inhumane conditions in 1382 prisoners, the judiciary has decided upon the rights of prisoners (whether under-trial or convicted) from time to time. It is ruled out that even though convicted, they are still humans and have the right to life beyond mere animal existence.

Following is a list of major judgements of 2019 pronounced by High Courts and the Supreme Court of India while dispensing with the petitions relating to the various rights of prisoners:
  1. Privacy rights of Prisoners and their spouses: Madras High Court

    In Rahmath Nisha v/s Additional Director General of Prisoner and Others, the Madhurai Bench of Madras High Court had dealt with the privacy rights of a prisoner.
    In this case, the accused prisoner had been given 10 days leave to visit his wife at his home, which was duly granted to him, but by the time he reached his home followed by a police escort, his wife was shifted to hospital and was admitted to ICU. The contention of the public escort was that the permission was limited to his house and therefore he could not be allowed to meet his wife at the hospital.

    The Court took the view and held that not only he should be taken to the hospital to meet his wife, but also, the meeting between the couple shall not be monitored as is mandatory under Rule 531 of the Tamil Nadu Prison Rules, 1983.

    The Court observed:
    When a prisoner meets his wife, he may like to hold her hands. His emotions are bound to be finding a physical expression. While private prison cottages may be a distant prospect, the privacy and dignity of the prisoners should be scrupulously protected. Conversations between the prisoner and his spouse should be unmonitored.

  2. Parole Rights of Prisoners

    The Bombay High Court in judgment titled Kantilal Nandlal Jaiswal v/s Divisional Commissioner, Nagpur and others [2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1856] stuck down the proviso to Rule 19 (2) of the Prisons (Bombay Furlough and Parole) Rules, 1959. The said proviso mandated that there has to be a difference of at least one year till regular or emergency parole is again granted to a Prisoner except in case of death of the nearest relative.

    The Court ruled out that although, parole, is a limited legal right, then also if a person is fulfilling the criteria to be granted parole, he cannot be deprived of such right. Such classification cannot be said to be based on an intelligible differentia and it cannot be said to have a rational nexus with the object of such classification.

    The Court, therefore, stuck down the proviso to Rule 19(2) classifying the same in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

  3. Right of the prisoner to seek transfer to prisoner nearer to his house

    In V.Radhakrishnan vs The State Of Tamil Nadu, the Madhurai Bench of the Madras High Court had allowed the prisoner to be transferred to the Madhurai Central Prison. In this case, the Petitioner was a death row convict and was commuted to imprisonment for life and was housed in Trichy Central prison. Since his mother was 92 years of age and wanted to visit his son/petitioner more often, the Petitioner had sought a transfer to Madhurai Central Prison.

    The Ld. Single Judge of the Hon'ble Court had allowed the plea but was thereafter rejected by Division Bench of the Court upon Appeal filed by Prison authorities. The matter of the Petitioner was thereafter given liberty to file application afresh and the same shall be considered on the grounds enumerated under Rule 568 of the Tamil Nadu Prison Rules, 1983.
The Hon'ble High Court therefore, observed:
The choice of the convict prisoner can be governed by a variety of factors. One such factor can be the proximity of the prison to the place where his family resides. A prisoner is also a fellow human being and not a soul-less chattel.

In the case on hand, the petitioner has proved to be of good character. He has even authored a poetry book. His mother is 92 years old. She wants to visit her son as often as possible. The prison authorities have also recommended that the petitioner can be kept at Madurai permanently. I therefore direct the second respondent to issue proceedings permitting the retention of the petitioner at Central Prison, Madurai to undergo the remaining part of his punishment period. Of course, if circumstances warrant, the authority is always at liberty to pass appropriate orders transferring the petitioner to some other prison.

Even though the judiciary has been playing its part while dispensing with the petitions, then also there are lacunas in the administration of prisoners in prisons as well as during trial. This includes delay in trial, unhygienic prison conditions, lack of infrastructure for cohabitation of prisoners. Although, after Sunil Batra, Hussainara Khatoon, Rudal Shah, etc, though the prisoners have got resort with the rulings and constitutional rights in their favour, there is a long road to be covered, which calls for amendments in the laws and rules relating to their rights.  

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