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Rights of Prisoners

The word prisoner means any person who is kept under custody in jail or prison because he/she committed an act prohibited by law of the land. A prisoner also known as an inmate is anyone who against their will is deprived of liberty. This liberty can be deprived by forceful restrain or confinement. Prisoners rights deal with the rights of the inmates while behind bars. Prisoners have basic legal rights that can't be taken away from them.[1]The basic rights include right to food and water, right to have an attorney to defend himself, protection from torture, violence and racial harassment. Section 1 of the Prison Security Act1992, defines the term prisoner. The word prisoner means any person for the time being in a prison as a result of any requirement imposed by a court or otherwise that he be detained in legal custody. This paper presents the rights of the prisoners in detail with related case laws.

2. International Human Rights Law:
International human rights laws protect people from racial discrimination, from torture and from enforced disappearances. They also recognise the rights of specific groups of people, including women, children, and people with disability, indigenous peoples and migrant workers. Some of these treaties are complemented by optional protocols that deal with specific issues or allow people to make complaints.

a. UN Charter:
The charter of the United Nations was signed on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco, at the conclusion of the United Nations conference on international organization, and came into force on October 24 1945.
Basic Principles For The Treatment of Prisoners[2] was adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 45/111 of 14 December 1990. The principles are as follows:
#Prisoners shall be treated with inherent dignity and valued as human beings.
#No discrimination on the grounds of race ,sex, colour, language, religion, political, national, social origin, property, birth, or other status.
#Respect the religious beliefs and cultural precepts of the group to which the prisoners belong.
#The responsibility of the prisons for the custody of the prisoners and for the protection of the society against crime and its fundamental responsibilities for promoting the well-being and development of all members of the society.
#All prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in UDHR, ICESCR, ICCPR and the optional protocol as well as such other rights as are set out in other United Nations covenants.
#Right of the prisoners to take part in cultural activities and education aimed at the full development of the human personality.
#Abolition of solitary confinement as a punishment, or to the restriction of its use, should be undertaken or encouraged.
#Prisoners to undertake meaningful remunerated employment which will facilitate their reintegration into the country#s labour market and permit them to contribute to their own financial support and to that of their families.
#Access to health services without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation.
#With the participation and help of the community and social institutions and with regard to the interest of victims, favourable conditions shall be created for the reintegration of the ex-prisoner into society.
#The above principles shall be applied impartially.

b. International Bill of Rights:
I. Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

In 1948 a movement was started in the United Nations in the form of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted in the General Assembly of the United Nations. This organic document is also called as Human Rights Declaration. This important document provides some basic principles of administration of justice. Among the provisions in the document are follows:
#No one should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment[3].
#Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
#No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
#Every one charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

ii. The International Covenants On Civil And Political Rights, 1966:
The ICCPR remains the core instrumental treaty on the protection of the rights of the prisoners. Following relevant provisions of the covenants are as:
#No one shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments.
#Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest or detention.
#All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person[4].
#No one shall be imprisoned merely on a ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation.

C. UN Core Conventions And Specific Instruments:
# Standard Minimum Rules For The Treatment of Prisoners:
Amnesty International in 1955 formulated certain standard rules for the treatment of prisoners. Some important relevant rules are as follow:
# Principle of equality should prevail; there shall be no discrimination on grounds of race, sex, colour, religion. Political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status among prisoners[5].
# Men and women shall so far as possible be detained in separate institution;
# Complete separation between civil prisoners and persons imprisoned by reason of criminal offence; young prisoners should be kept separate from the adult prisoners.
# All sorts of cruel inhuman degrading punishments shall be completely prohibited.
# Availability of at least one qualified Medical officer with the knowledge of psychiatry.
# Convention Against Torture And Other Cruel, Inhuman Or Degrading Treatment Or Punishment:
#State party has to take effective legislative, judicial and other measures to prevent acts of torture.
#No state party shall expel, return or extradite a person who is in danger of being subjected to torture.
#State party should ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law.

3. Indian Law:
A. Constitution:

The rights guaranteed in the part III of Indian Constitution are available to prisoners; because a prisoner is treated as a person in prison.[6]
Article 14 contemplated that like should be treated alike, and also provided the concept of reasonable classification. This article provides the basis for prison authorities to determine various categories of prisoners and their classification with the object of reformation. Indian constitution guarantees six freedoms to citizens of India, among which certain freedom can#t be enjoyed by the prisoners. They are #freedom of movement#, #freedom to residence and to settle# and #freedom of profession#. But other freedoms conferred in this article are enjoyed by the prisoners. Moreover, constitution provides various other provisions though cannot directly be called as prisoner#s rights but may be relevant. Among them are Article 20(1), (2), and Article 21 and Article 22(4-7).

B. Enactments And Rules:
1. The Prisons Act, 1894:

This act is the first legislation regarding prison regulation in India. The following are some of the important provisions regarding prisoner#s rights:
#Accommodation and sanitary conditions for prisoners.
#Provisions relating to mental and physical state of prisoners.
#Examination of prisoners by qualified medical officer.
#Separation of prisoners for male, female, criminal, civil, convicted and under trial prisoners.
#Provisions for treatment of under trials, civil prisoners, parole and temporary release of prisoners.

2. 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.
#Any court which is a high court may in case in which it has recommended to government the granting of a free pardon to any prisoner, permit him to be at liberty on his own cognizance.

3. The Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950:
This act was enacted for the transfer of prisoners from one state to another for rehabilitation or vocational training and from over-populated jails to less congested jails within the state.

4. The Prisoners (Attendance in Courts) ACT, 1955:
This Act contains provisions authorizing the removal of prisoners to a civil or criminal court for giving evidence or for answering to the charge of an offence.

C. Cases Decided By Supreme Court And High Court:
1.D.B.M.Patnaik v. State of Andhra Pradesh[7]
The SC asserted that the mere detention does not deprive the convicts of all the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution.

2. Hiralal Mallick v. State of Bihar[8]
In 1977 the SC stressed for the rehabilitation of prisoners and reformation of prisons.

3. Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration[9]
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#.

4. Prem Shankar Shukla v. Delhi Administration[10]
The court held that no person shall be hand-cuffed, fettered routinely for convince of the custodian#s escort.

5. R.D. Upadhyay v. State of A.P and Ors.[11]
The right to fair treatment and right of judicial remedy are pre-requisites of administration of prison justice.

6. Hussain Ara Khatun v. State of Bihar[12]
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.

D. Policy Documents, Government Schemes
# Government of India appointed a National Expert Committee on women prisoners (1968-87) under chairmanship of Justice Krishna Iyer to examine the conditions of women prisoners.
# National Conference on Human Rights of Prisoners on 14thNov. 1995, consensus was emerged to work out the draft law on prisons. A Core Group has prepared a Draft Bill namely, the Indian Prisons Act, 1995 which was circulated to State Governments for their consideration and also to the Ministry of law. But the bill is still pending under consideration of the Government of India.

4. Regional Law:
A. European Convention On Human Rights (1953-69):
This convention has its own history in the importance of human rights. Some of the important provisions of this convention are as follows:
#No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.
#No one shall subject to inhuman treatment or degrading treatment or punishment.
#Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release be ordered if the detention is not lawful.
#Everyone who been the victim of arrest in contravention of the provisions shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

5. Conclusion:
The Supreme Court in US in Manna v. people of Illinois[13]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.

[3] UDHR, 1948, Article.1
[4] ICCPR, 1966, Article.10
[5] standard minimum rules for treatment of prisoners, adopted by Aug.30,1955 Rule 6(1).
[6] Prison Laws In India: A socio-legal study by Mudasir A. Bhat
[7] AIR 1974 (SC 2092)
[8]AIR 1977 (SC 2237)
[9]AIR 1978 (SC 1675)
[10]AIR 1980 (SC 1535)
[11]AIR 2001 (SCC 437)
[12]AIR 1979 (SC 1377)

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