Rights of prisoners in light of Article 21 by Rusha Mukherjee At Lexcliq

A prisoner has all the fundamental rights guaranteed under Part III of the Indian Constitution unless it is constitutionally curtailed. [1].Any major punishment within the prison has to satisfy the Article 21 test.
Case laws dealing with rights of inmates under Art 21 scope.
In Sunil Batra Vs Delhi Administration [2]the Court held that solitary confinement of a prisoner who was awarded death sentence under Section 30(2) of the Prisons Act, 1894 because it was done not as a punishment for breaking prison rules but only because he was awarded death sentence. As pointed by Justice Desai a convict of a person for a crime did not reduce him to a non-person vulnerable to inhumane punishment by the jail authorities without any procedural safeguards. The bar fetters imposed un.der Section 56 of the Prisoners Act 1894 limits the locomotion ( an instrinsic part of Art 21)of an individual convict and can only be justified if it is for the reason of the character of the individual or his safe custody. [3]. A prisoner has the fundamental rights of being protected from his co-prisoners. In case a person is killed by his co-prisoners the State is liable to compensate the dependants of the deceased as held in Kewal Pati Vs State of UP. (1995) 3SCC 600.Handcuffing of undertrials without adequate reason in writing has been found to be an infringement of article 21 by the Apex court in Prem Shankar Shukla versus Delhi administration .
• The provisions in section 32A of the Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985 denied the courts power to suspend sentence is awarded under the Act pending in appeal this provision was a clear violation of Article 21, particularly when no mechanism is provided for early disposal of the appeal[4].Prisoners who are condemned to death also has the right to oral hearing in review petitions as stated by the Supreme Court. Courts had also directed the authorities of maintaining protective and remand homes for woman and children for providing suitable human conditions in the homes and for providing appropriate machinery for the effective effective safeguard for their interest
• Right to legal aid – right to free legal aid at the cost of the state to an accused who is unable to afford legal services for any reasons of poverty indigents or incommunicado situation is a part of Fair just and reasonable procedure under Article 21 . The trial court is under an obligation to inform the accused who failed to afford legal representation that he is entitled to be represented by a lawyer at the cost of the state.Cases where the accused Is not told of his right and therefore he remains unrepresented by a lawyer his trial is vitiated by constitutional infirmity and any conviction as a result of such trial is liable to be set aside[5]
• Right to speedy trial -Hussainara Khatoon Vs State of Bihar It was held that a procedure which keeps such large numbers of people behind bars without trials so long cannot possibly be regarded reasonable just or fair so as to be in conformity with the requirement of article 21[4].In the present he the court re emphasised the review for withdrawal of cases against undertrials for more than two years.
• Peoples union for civil liberties versus the state of Maharashtra stated directions to be observed the police authorities against custodial violence and death of the accused in police lock ups DK basu guidelinesas well as in encounter death.
• Right to fair trial is not directly mentioned under the constitution but it is a very important aspect of life an liberty reflected in article 21 the fair trial for a criminal offence consist not only in technical observance of the frame an forms of law but also in recognition and just application of its principle and substance to find out the truth and prevent miscarriage of justice right against cruel and unusual punishments in jagmohan Singh versus state of UV the constitutionality of imposing death sentence was even challenged before the Supreme Court. In T v Vatheeswar Vs State of TN It was held that delay Exceeding two years in the execution of death sentence entitles a convict to get it commuted to life imprisonment however it was later overruled by the Supreme Court in Sher Singh versus state of Punjab in 1983
• When can the rights be curtailed?
• The prisoners have no fundamental right to escape from lawful custody and hence the presence of armed guards causes no interference with the right to personal liberty so as prisoners cannot complain of the installation of the liveware mechanism with which they are likely to come in contact only if they can attempt to escape from the prison also the denial of amenities or their poor maintenance does not necessarily constitute an encroachment of the right to personal liberty The rights of a prisoner can be curtailed procedure established by law.
The prisoners also has the right to Send his book written during the detention. For the publication. A prisoner though found guilty Cannot be subject to inhuman treatment and cannot be denied of the basic human rights therefore sufficient safeguards should be provided for this purpose. The court have issued appropriate guidelines to prison and police authorities for safeguarding the right of the prisoners and persons in police lockup particularly of women and children against sexual abuse and for their early trials however a right to be released on bail has not yet been recognised under Article 21 and it has been held in so far as the she dual cast and the schedule tribes act 1989 prohibits anticipatory bail for offences under the Act Is not violative Article 21.
[1]Kedar Nath Singh Vs State of UP
[2](1978) SCC 494 AIR 1978SC 1675
[3]Haryana Singh Vs State of State of UP
[4]Dadu Vs State of Maharashtra (2000) 8SCC437
[5]Suk Das Vs UT of Maharashtra(1986) 20SCC401

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