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THE RIGHTS OF PRISONERS

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Written by: Jetti Vaishnavi


INTRODUCTION


The word ‘Prison’ doesn’t mean “to use sudden force” or “to cage”. Prison is an old age foundation. Prison is a place, properly arranged for those culprits to be kept safe in custody while going through legal process while in trial or for punishment. Fundamental Rights are provided to every individual. In addition, prisoners are entitled to their fundamental rights to a certain extent. In most parts of the world, prisoners have been denied their rights when they are in prison and this is wrong. Even if he is an offender nobody can take away his fundamental rights. The idea is to take a small step towards opening a debate on prisoner’s rights and for which the rights of the prisoner are put back on the political agenda, such an effort includes seeking to promote the recognition and growth of a variety of constituencies that are actively involved and familiar with a range of penal issues.


In Indian constitution, there were no provisions related to the rights of prisoners but in the case of STATE OF ANDHRA PRADESH V. CHALLA RAMKRISHNAN REDDY,[1] it was held that the prisoners were also humans and they will not be denied their basic constitutional rights.


The Supreme Court stated that “A convicted person, an under-trial person or an imprisoned person does not cease to be human, he enjoys all his fundamental rights being in prison, including Article 21-Right to Life as stipulated in the Constitution.”


CONSTITUTIONAL AND OTHER STATUTORY PROVISIONS DEALING WITH PRISONER’S RIGHTS


According to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which prohibits any inhuman, cruel or degrading treatments to any person (either citizen or non-citizen) will be punished. In the same way, Prisoners Act, 1984 specifically deals with cruelty of prisoners. If any actions are taken on a prisoner without any court order, then the prison official is responsible for those actions. The Indian judiciary, especially Supreme Court in the recent past years has been very vigilant against encroachments upon the human rights of the prisoners. The provisions dealing with the prisoner’s rights are:


1. Right to Legal Aid: Our country is having a complex economic structure and is facing problems like poverty, destitution and illiteracy. Providing legal machinery itself is expected to deal with that. Legal Aid gives assurance to:

  • Equality before law

  • Right to Counsel

  • Right to fair trial.


2. Right to be informed of the grounds of arrest: This is a statutory right of an arrested individual to be informed of the reasons for their arrest. Under Section 50 and Section 50(A) of the CrPC, the arrested person will have the right to get informed without any delay regarding his/her arrest. Even Article 22(1) of the Indian Constitution applies to the arrested person and specifies that, without being informed of any reason for such arrest, no person who is arrested is to be kept in custody. However, the accused does not have the right to select, decide by which other court the case is to be tried.

  • According to Section 50(1) of the CrPC[2] “Any police officer or any other person without warrant detaining a person should immediately notify the individual regarding the particulars of the offence for which the person is arrested or for which ground such arrest has taken place.”

  • In accordance with Section 55 of the CrPC,[3]before arrest, the Subordinate Official shall inform the person to be arrested of the material in writing given by the senior police officer indicating the offence or other grounds of arrest. Failure to comply with this rule will make the arrest unlawful.

  • In case of an arrest under an arrest warrant, Section 75 of Cr.P.C. states that “the police or other enforcing official shall notify the person to be arrested and, if necessary, shall show him the warrant.” Non compliance with the provision makes the arrest unlawful.

  • This privilege likewise has been provided by the Indian Constitution. Article 22(2)[4] of the Constitution stipulates that “no individual arrested shall be held in custody without notification of the reasons for such an arrest and the right to consultation cannot be denied and can be defended by the legal practitioner of their choice.” The right for the arrested person to be informed is a valuable right.


3. Information Regarding the Right to be released on bail: Whoever is detained without a warrant and who is not accused of a non-bailable offence, the police officer should be notified that he is entitled to release on bail on payment of the security amount. This assists people who are arrested and not aware of their right to be released on bail for bailable offences.


4. Right To Be Taken Before A Magistrate Without Delay: Regardless of the reality, that whether the arrest was made with or without a warrant, the individual who is making such arrest needs to bring the arrested individual before a legal officer immediately. Further, the arrested individual must be limited in police headquarters just and no place else, before taking him to the Magistrate. These matters have been given in CrPC under Sections 56 and 76 which are as given below:

  • Section 56 of CrPC[5] states that “The arrested person should be taken to before the magistrate or the higher authority in the police department. If an officer arrests a person without a warrant, then he has to make an arrangement to take him safely before the magistrate or to the highest official in the police department”.

  • Section 76 of Cr.P.C[6] states that “The arrested person should be brought to the court immediately after a police officer or any higher authority executes an arrest warrant against the person”.

  • Further, it has been specified in Section 76 that the arrested person should be brought to the court within the 24 hrs if not the police authority or the higher official will be blamed. The same has been counted in the Constitution as a Fundamental Right under Article 22(2). This privilege has been made with a view to dispose of the likelihood of police authorities from separating admissions or convincing a man to give data.


5. Right to Speedy Trial: One of the fundamental rights of a prisoner mentioned in Article 21 of the constitution. It ensures just, fair and reasonable procedure. It also ensures that prosecutor may not delay the trial of a criminal suspect arbitrary which serves the social welfare of the state and to give justice to the victims of the crimes.


6. Right against Solitary Confinement, Handcuffing & Bar Fetters and Protection from Torture: “Solitary Confinement”, according to Black’s law dictionary, in general sense, means the separate confinement of a prisoner, with only occasional access of any other person, and that too only at the discretion of the jail authorities and in stricter sense, it means the complete isolation of a prisoners from all human society and his confinement in a cell is arranged so that he has so no direct interaction or sight of a human being. In SUNIL BATRA V. DELHI ADMINISTRATION[7] it was held that solitary confinement could be imposed only in exceptional cases where a convict was of such a dangerous character that he must be segregated from other prisoners. Solitary confinement has a degrading and dehumanizing effect on prisoners. Constant and unrelieved isolation of prisoners represents the most destructive abnormal environment. Results of long solitary confinement are disastrous to the physical and mental health of those who are subjected to it.


7. Right to meet friends and to consult a lawyer: Prisoners are not only protected physically but also mentally. It is necessary for individuals to meet for the purpose of information. It is the right of people to consult lawyers and the act done by them directly affects the convict’s case. Visiting of friends and family members give them mental stability to survive in such a worst condition where people are unknown to each other. Section 50(3)[8] of the Code additionally sets out that the individual against whom procedures have started has a privilege to be protected by a pleader of his decision. This begins when the individual is arrested. The discussion with the legal counsellor might be within the sight of cop yet not inside his listening ability.


8. Right to be examined by medical practitioner: Section 54 of Cr.P.C[9] states “The examination of an arrested person by medical practitioner at the request of the arrested person can be allowed- When a person arrested, whether on charges or not, alleges that the examination of his body provides evidence, when he is produced before a Magistrate or at any time during his detention in custody, that reflects on any crime committed by the person or that he will commit any crimes committed by any other person against his body, the Magistrate shall, upon request of the arrested person, conduct a registered medical practitioner’s examination of the person’s body to the extent that the Magistrate does not consider this request for a vexation, for a postponement or to defeat the ends of justice.”


9. Right to Silence: The ‘right to silence’ was developed from the principles of common law. This implies that courts or tribunals should not typically presume that the individual is guilty just for not answering questions posed to him by the police or the court. In line with the laws of evidence, a police officer’s statement or confession is not permitted in a court of law. Confession is a major concern for the right to silence. The breaking of silence of the accused may happen before a magistrate, but it should be free and voluntary.


10. Right to reasonable wages: During the imprisonment, the prisoners are made to work in the prison and they must be paid at the reasonable rate. The wage rate should not be trivial or below minimum wages.


CONCLUSION


The rights of every individual are protected by Article 21 and these rights cannot be denied even by the State. Prisoners have all the rights that a free man has under certain restrictions. They are not deprived of their fundamental rights by just being in prison. It is also considered that the police frequently use their power to threaten arrested persons and use their authority to extort money. In addition, numerous reports of custodial violence led many to feel that deprivation of the basic rights of those who are arrested is becoming common. Each prisoner is entitled to a healthy and sanitary situation in prison. The prison situation should be adequately monitored in order to ensure the prisoners dignified life. Various new prison administrative efforts must be taken so that prisoners can live life with dignity after prison.

[1] (2000) 5 SSC 712. [2]Section 50(1) of The Criminal Procedure Code,1973 [3]Section 55 of The Criminal Procedure Code,1973 [4]Article 22(2) of the Indian Constitution. [5]Section 56 of The Criminal Procedure Code,1973. [6]Section 76 of Criminal Procedure Code. [7] (1978) 4 SCC 409. [8]Section 50(3) of The Criminal Procedure Code,1973 [9]Section 54 of The Criminal Procedure Code,1973

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