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Know Your Rights- Prisoners in India

“No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by its highest citizens but its lowest ones” -Nelson Mandela


The Indian legal system is built on non-violence, mutual respect, liberty, and dignity for all individuals. Everyone is treated equally in the eyes of law, including the criminals. Even if a person has committed the most heinous crime, he/she cannot be deprived of basic rights that are common to all human beings. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to be aware of the basic rights given to all prisoners in our country.

Here, we analyze the 9 most important legal rights, which every prisoner in India should be aware of.


1. Right to Speedy Trial


As the saying goes, “Justice delayed is justice denied”. The right to a speedy trial is a fundamental right of every prisoner guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Section 309 of the Criminal Procedure Code also speaks about this right. It ensures just, fair, and reasonable procedures, which are the primary objectives of the criminal justice system.


2. Right to Legal Aid


The concept of Legal Aid provides a legal remedy to all the prisoners mentioned in Article 21, 39 A read with Article 142 and Section 304 of CrPC. It ensures that every prisoner is entitled to legal services to attain justice, irrespective of their socio-economic status. This promotes the concept of equality and makes the administration of justice easily accessible.


3. Right to Higher Education


The Hon'ble Supreme Court has directed that all the prisoners, who are desirous of taking up advanced studies have the right to take up respective correspondent courses. Women prisoners are entitled to take up training in tailoring, doll- making, and embroidery. Moreover, under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, the prisoners also have the right to gain knowledge by receiving books and magazines inside the jail.


4. Right against Unwarranted Restraints


A detainee, under Article 19 is entitled to minimum freedom of movement. Therefore, the use of handcuffs and iron fetters should be avoided and should be used only in extreme situations where the escorting authority is bound to record the reasons for doing so.


5. Right to meet Friends/ Relatives and Consult a Lawyer


Every prisoner has the right to socialize and consult a lawyer whenever he/she wishes to. This is also enshrined in Article 21 & 22(1) of the Indian Constitution. Women prisoners also have the right to meet their children frequently. This ensures that the prisoners are not only protected from physical distress but also are safe from any mental torture.


6. Right to Reasonable Wages in Prison


Every prisoner is entitled to a remuneration equivalent to the services rendered. ‘Forced Labour’ is strictly prohibited. Every prisoner is required to work subject to their mental and physical fitness and should provide wages at a reasonable rate, not less than the minimum wages. This ensures equality between the prisoners and the citizens.


7. Right to Compensation in case of Miscarriage of Justice


Considering the frequent complaints related to custodial violence and deaths, the Supreme Court has given the right to receive a monetary remedy on being ill-treated by the authorities. Moreover, the prisoners are also entitled to compensation in case of ‘illegal detention’.


8. Rights of Pregnant/ Mother Prisoners


The Hon’ble Supreme Court has directed that before sending a pregnant woman to jail, it should be ensured that the jail in question has the basic amenities for the delivery of the child as well as for furnishing pre-natal and post-natal care for both. The female prisoners are also entitled to keep their children with them in jail till they attain the age of six years after which, the child may be handed over to a suitable surrogate or sent to an institution run by the Social Welfare Department.


9. Rights guaranteed under The Prisons Act, 1894


This Act provides certain statutory rights for the prisoners some of which are mentioned below:

  • Section 4 provides for proper accommodation and sanitary conditions for prisoners.

  • Section 7 provides for their shelter and safe custody.

  • Section 24(2) provides the examination of prisoners by qualified medical officers.

  • Section 33 provides that every unconvicted prisoner, unable to provide himself with sufficient clothing and bedding, shall be supplied with the same.

  • Section 35 provides the treatment of undertrials, civil prisoners, parole, and temporary release of prisoners.

Conclusion


Thus, the right to exercise human rights and constitutional rights are common to all, even for prisoners. Thousands of cases concerning violation of prisoners’ rights go unnoticed in India. This section of the society, already gets enough punishment owing to their acts. Thus, being sensitive towards their condition and making the prisoners aware of their rights is crucial for their protection and empowerment, just like other citizens of the country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Atishya Ghosh is a student of University of Petroleum & Energy Studies, Dehradun

You can contact them at atishgo2000@gmail.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/atishya-ghosh-b29baa1b1/

Edited by: Swathi Ashok Nair

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