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Solitary Confinement Sec 73 of IPC

Sec 73 of the IPC defines solitary confinement as a form of imprisonment in which the inmate lives in a single cell with little or no meaningful contact with other people . Solitary confinement is a type of punitive tool within the prison system to discipline or to separate disruptive prison inmates who are security risks to other inmates, the prison staff, or the prison itself.

The legality of solitary confinement has been frequently challenged over the past sixty years as conceptions surrounding the practice have changed. Much of the legal discussion concerning solitary confinement has centred on whether or not it constitutes torture or cruel and unusual punishment which can hamper the physiological functioning of brain . Health care professionals and organizations recognize the fact that solitary confinement is not ethical, yet the segregating treatment fails to come to a halt.

Section 73 Solitary Confinement

Whenever any person is convicted of an offence for which under this code the court has power to sentence him to rigorous imprisonment , the court may, by its sentence , order that the offender shall be kept in solitary confinement for any portion or portions of the imprisonment to which he is sentenced , not exceeding three months in the whole, according to the following scale , that is say:
  • A time not exceeding one month if the term of imprisonment shall not exceed six months;
  • A time not exceeding two months if the term of imprisonment shall exceed six months and [shall not exceed one] year;
  • A time not exceeding three months if the term of imprisonment shall exceed one year.

Solitary confinement is a kind of punishment which secludes the prisoner from any intercourse of sight of and communication with other prisoner ,it may be accompanied with or without labour . In leading case of Kishore Singh V. State Of Rajasthan it was held by SC that solitary confinement is a type of imprisonment in which there is complete isolation of prisoner from the co prisoner and segregation from outside world and fellow prisoner .under the sec 73 solitary confinement ordered by the courts shall not exceed the following seats:
Terms Of Imprisonment Solitary Confinement
6 Months 1 Month
6 Months - 1 Yrs 2 Months
Exceeding 1yrs 3 Months
It is clear from that a sentence inflicting solitary confinement for the whole term of imprisonment is illegal if exceeding 14 days. it must bear only a portion of the term of imprisonment.

Charles Sobhraj Superintendent, Central Jail.

In this case, Supreme Court has held that any harsh isolation of a prisoner from the society of fellow prisoners by cellular detention under the Prisons Act, 1894 sections 29 and 30 is penal, and it must be inflicted only in accordance with fair procedure; and in the absence of which the confinement would be violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.

Solitary Confinement under Prisons Act, 1894

Section 29 of The Prisons Act, 1894 deals with solitary confinement and it reads as follows:

"No cell shall be used for solitary confinement unless it is furnished with the means of enabling the prisoner to communicate at any time with an officer of the prison, and every prisoner so confined in a cell for more than twenty- four hours, whether as a punishment or otherwise, shall be visited at least once a day by the Medical Officer or Medical Subordinate."

When solitary imprisonment can be imposed:

Imprisonment can have two propositions:
  1. Rigorous punishment:

    The convicted prisoner on whom the solitary confinement imposed can be put to do the hard labour where he can receive minimum wages for his work. Rigorous punishment can be imposed only when the accused has done some heinous crime with brutality.
  2. Simple punishment:

    Simple imprisonment means lighter offences. Solitary confinement can be imposed only in rigorous offences, not in simple offences. It is the type of imprisonment where an accused convicted of a crime is kept in prison without any hard labour.

Limit of Solitary Confinement:
Solitary confinement in any sentence can be awarded not more than 14 days at a time for a maximum of 3 months. It must be awarded in intervals and periods .

If imprisonment exceeds 3 months then solitary confinement should not exceed 7 days in a month. If the imprisonment does not exceed more than 6 months, then solitary confinement should be for 1 month.

If the imprisonment exceeds 6 months and does not exceed one year, then solitary confinement can be imposed for 2 months. If the imprisonment exceeds one year, then solitary confinement should not exceed 3 months.
Written By: Akshita Nath

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