• The laws relating to prison are often neglected in India.
• There is a lack of stringent legislation for prisoners who despite the wrongdoings they have committed, still deserve basic human rights.
• Criminals can only be reformed by using reformative measures and not draconian punishment.
• In most prisons, the prisoners are subjected to inhuman conditions and have been deprived of basic amenities.
In India, prison laws are amongst the most neglected laws in the country which has lost their significance because of which neither the lawmakers of this country nor the political leaders give it any value to get reformed. There is a lack of stringent legislation for prisoners who despite the wrongdoings they have committed, deserve to live a life with the basic human dignity which we all are entitled to being citizens of this country. The prisoners are often kept in inhuman conditions and deprived of even basic amenities like sanitary conditions and lack of proper food, bedding, clothing, etc. Criminals can only be reformed by using reformative measures such as providing education, therapy, rather than trying to tame them by authoritative means.
What is a prison
Prison is something that can be defined as a kind of accommodation that is meant for individuals who have committed an offense and are undergoing trial for having committed that offense. The prison laws in India are constantly ignored and forgotten. They are not given sufficient importance and no effort is put into reforming the convicts. In most prisons, the prisoners are subjected to inhuman conditions and have been deprived of basic amenities such as proper meals and a lack of hygienic conditions.
Rules relating to prisons Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court of India, through various judgments, has laid down several rules which are as follows-
a) Every person is entitled to his liberty. This means that just because a person is incarcerated or is in prison does not mean that the person should be treated as a non-person.
b) A person who has committed an offense is still entitled to different kinds of human rights but within the confinement and limitations of imprisonment.
c) As the person is already suffering for the commission of his offense by incarceration, there should be no further aggravation of his suffering.
Certain rights mentioned in Part 3rd of the Indian Constitution are offered to the prisoners because a prisoner remains a ‘person’ inside the prison.
The Supreme Court of India has given very wide meaning to ‘The right to personal liberty”. This fundamental right is also available to those who are conflicted with the law. The right to a speedy trial; free legal aid service; the right against torture; the right against inhuman; and humiliating treatment are also provided to a person in the prison.
• Article 14-This article provides the concept of ‘equality before the law’ and ‘every person should be treated equally. It has been a very useful tool for the courts to examine the category of prisoners and their basis of classification.
• Article 19-The Constitution of India provides six fundamental freedoms to its citizens. These are- ‘freedom of movement’; ‘freedom to reside and to settle’, and ‘freedom of profession, occupation, trade or business which cannot be enjoyed by the prisoners because these freedoms have some conflict with the concept of prisons and authorities has the power to put have reasonable restrictions. But other fundamental rights like the right to ‘freedom of speech and expression’; ‘freedom to become a member of an association; etc. are available to prisoners.
• Article 20 (2)- It represents the principle of ‘Double jeopardy’, this clause states the rule of the common law of ‘Nemo Debet Vis Vexari’ that is no person should be put behind bars twice in the prison for the same offense. One of the important safeguards which are useful for under-trials and ‘detenues’ is mentioned in Article 20 of the Indian Constitution, the jail authorities or the police authorities can’t force the prisoners to give testimony against themselves.
• Article 21 – It provides the right to life to a person. It includes the principle of liberty. After the Maenka Gandhi case, the Supreme Court gave a wide interpretation and provides a right that has been used against any action taken arbitrarily by the executive authorities including the police and prison authority. The concept of fair and reasonable procedure for the deprivation of the life and personal liberty of the individuals has been established after this judgment.
Legal Provision’s for Prisoners
In India many committees were established to improve the condition of prisoners. Few of them include-
• PRISON ACT, 1894: This act was enacted on 22nd March 1894 and is an exhaustive act that contains law relating to the smooth functioning of prisons. This Act has rarely gone under any significant change since it was enacted. However, this act did not provide anything related to the reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners. In the year 1919-20, the Indian Jail Committee published a report putting major pressure on the prison administration to provide reformation and rehabilitating to offenders. This act left something more to be desired as it didn’t have any adequate provisions for reforming the prisoners and rather took a colonial approach towards dealing with the prisoners.
• MODEL PRISON MANUAL,1960: As per its guidelines, the Ministry of Home Affairs, in 1972, appointed a committee to work on improving the conditions of prisons. This committee made several reports and mentioned the need for a national policy on prisons. They also laid down principles concerning the treatment of offenders. The committee established several rules on how the prisoners can make contact with their families and lawyers. It limited the number of letters which a prisoner can send to its family but didn’t impose any restrictions on the number of letters received by them. They also provided the prisoners with the right to have meeting with their friends, families and lawyers once a month.
• THE MULLA COMMITTEE: The Government of India in 1980, constituted a Committee on Jail Reform and appointed Justice A. N. Mulla as its chairman. The main motive of the Committee was to evaluate and establish laws; rules; and regulations, relating to prisons while keeping in mind that the overall objective was the protection of society and rehabilitation of offenders.
• THE KRISHNA IYER COMMITTEE: This committee was established to provide an analysis of the current condition of women prisoners in India. It suggested introducing more women in the police force to make it easier for managing women and child offenders. It also stated that women prisoners have to face greater family dislocation than men because there are much fewer prisons for the imprisonment of women. They have been over-classified or, they have been imprisoned in a facility that does not match their classification. For this reason, they are offered fewer programs than male prisoners.
The rights of the prisoners are available under the provisions of following International Instruments, like:
• THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS, The UN General Assembly, on 10 December 1948 implemented the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to promote human rights in the world. It was mentioned under
a) Article 1 states that all human beings are born free and equal.
b) Article 2 states that everyone shall have the right, without dissimilarity of any kind, to all the rights and freedoms provided for in this Declaration.
c) Article 3 states that every person has the right to life, freedom, and personal security.
d) Article 5 states that no one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman treatment or punishment.
• THE INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS: The ICCPR offers every person the right to life, whether he is a prisoner or a liberator. It states that the law protects this right and nobody is forcibly deprived of his or her life. Under Article 7 of ICCPR, no one shall be tortured or subjected to cruel, inhuman, or humiliating treatment or punishment. And under, Article 10, all people deprived of their freedom should be treated with humanity and with respect for the human person's inherent dignity.
• THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION FOR THE PREVENTION OF TORTURE AND INHUMAN OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT: The Convention establishes the European Committee for Torture Prevention and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The committee may visit all custody places, justified by the convention. Once a state government has been informed of the Committee's intention to conduct a visit, it must allow access to the territory with the right to free travel without restriction, full information about the facility in question, unlimited access to the facility, and free movement within it, the right to interview any person held in the facility freely communicates with any person who believes that they can provide relevant information and access to any other information that the Committee considers necessary to carry out its task. All collected information is confidential.
• UNITED NATIONS BASIC PRINCIPLES FOR THE TREATMENT OF PRISONERS: The basic principles for the treatment of prisoners of the United Nations provide that all prisoners should be treated without distinction of any kind, with due respect for their inherent dignity and value as human beings. They should be rendered following all human rights and fundamental freedoms laid down in internationally recognized instruments except for freedom of movement.
Thus, from the above discussion it can be concluded that even a prisoner has basic human rights which cannot be taken away from him. The police and prison authorities should be trained in such a manner that they respect the prisoner’s right and don’t subject them to any further aggravation.