Protection of Prisoners and the Judiciary

This article is written by Shrey Hasija, a 1st-year law student at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU. This article is an overview of fundamental rights available to prisoners, and how the judiciary regulates them.

INTRODUCTION

“Every Saint Has A Past; Every Sinner Has A Future” – Oscar Wilde

Not so long time ago, the attitude towards prisons, prisoners, and punishment was brutal and harsh. Recognition of human beings in convicted felons is an idea that is still not implemented yet. The Prisons Act of 1894 and Prisons Statics in India reveals how basic human rights such as sanitization, clean food, and medical treatment is not just lesser-discussed issue in the society but it also has been ignored by government and prisons of India. It is a matter of shame that a country like India which has the 2nd largest population in the world does not have codified law on the rights of prisoners and also does not have comprehensive legislation to deal with their conduct while in jail. However, the judiciary of our country has given due recognition to the convicts and held their fundamental rights from time to time. In absence of legislation, the judiciary is the only one that has been able to uphold the rights of prisoners by giving various judgments in favor of prisoners and treating them as human beings.

Right of Prisoners 

As said earlier, the conviction of a human does not make him non-human. He remains a human right who should have basic human rights available to every man walking on this god’s green earth. However, he should not be treated as a free man and provided with absolute rights and luxuries. His freedom should be subject to limitations and reasonable restrictions. 

The Supreme court of India has been deliberating with state and central government for a very long time to improve the deteriorating condition of the 

Indian prisons and affecting the mental and physical health of prisoners due to the lack of infrastructure there is overcrowding of prisons. It is very important to invoke the rights and constitutional safeguard of prisoners. If the fundamental rights are not propagated and implemented well in every corner of the state that is only a betrayal of the faith of humans in the justice delivery system.

Role of judiciary in protecting the rights of the prisoners

  1. Right to Privacy

The concept of the right to privacy has evolved for many years. Recently its scope has been widened to the best possible way. A difference between mental and physical privacy is also drawn.

In the case Rahmath Nisha v. Additional director General of prisoner and others, the accused was given 10 days leave to visit his wife. By the time he reached home, his wife was taken to hospital in ICU due to extreme illness. However, the police personnel does not allow him to visit his wife in hospital citing that the permission is only granted to visit home only. Madras high court stated that prisoner should be allowed to visit his wife at the hospital and also the meeting between them should not be monitored because when a prisoner will be united with his wife, he might like to hold her hands or find physical expression and it is the human tendency to do so. 

  1. Right to legal aid

The concept of legal aid is the remedy to protect human rights during trial or conviction for any case. In the case M.H. Wadanrso Hoskot v. the State of Maharashtra, the court stated that the right to legal aid is one of the components of fair procedure i.e. supreme court reading Articles 21 and 39-A, read with Article 142 and section 304 of Cr.pc together acknowledged that the government has obligation to provide legal services to the accused one.

  1. Right to Speedy trial

Article 21 of our constitution provides the right to a speedy trial as a fundamental right to the prisoner. This article guarantees a fair and reasonable trial. The fact that the provision of a speedy trial is a socio-legal right to protect the accused, makes it essential for the accused person. Also, the right to a speedy trial is contained under Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. If this provision of Crpc is followed and implanted in the true spirit, all grievances of the prisoners could be resolved and it is also relevant to mention that if there is a delay in justice it directly leads to denial of justice which is also said to be “justice delayed is justice denied”.

  1. Right to Reasonable wage in prison

Remuneration is an amount that is paid to someone for the work he has done. Remuneration must not be less than the set minimum wages. There is no difference between the one who is serving punishment behind the walls and the one who is a law-abiding citizen of the country. For example, in the case of Mahammad Gisuddin v. the State of A.P, The court has stated that the account should be credited with a reasonable rate of payment/ it should not be lower than the minimum salary.

Conclusion 

Prisoners when convicted do not cease the right to be a human being. Our supreme court and many other courts of India have reiterated this position in several cases so that the prisoners did not become a victim themselves. It has been observed that the prisoner who has been depressed of liberty against his or his will infringes the human right that is given to him by the constitution of India. Being a prisoner that does not mean they are not eligible for fundamental right. Even he is confined in prison, he can enjoy all basic rights. It is clear from all the examples above that our judiciary is very keen to protect the human right of the people. However, the police and prison authorities should be trained and accommodated so that they take their right seriously.

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