Date: 14th Sept, 2020
by Nishtha Girdhar, UILS Punjab
“Every Saint Has A Past; Every Sinner Has A Future”-Oscar Wilde
The prison system and administration of India are a legacy of British Rule. At the present, the system in India claims to be a ‘Reformatory’ system i.e. it seeks to rehabilitate and reform those convicted of crimes so that they can be reintegrated into society successfully while minimizing the possibility of re-committing crime.
In Charles Sobraj vs The Suptd. Central Jail, Tihar (1978 AIR 1514) the Hon’ble Court held “imprisonment does not spell farewell to fundamental rights although, by a realistic re-appraisal, Courts will refuse to recognize the full panoply of Part III enjoyed by a free citizen”.
WHO IS A PRISONER?
In the most basic sense, a prisoner is a person who is kept under imprisonment or in confinement in a prison owing to a violation of the law or the commission of a crime or by the virtue of being under trial.
The Prisons Act of 1894 categorizes prisoners into three categories and defines them as follows:
Criminal Prisoner- any prisoner duly committed to custody under the writ, warrant or order of any Court or authority exercising criminal jurisdiction, or by order of a Court-martial;
Convicted Criminal Prisoner - any criminal prisoner under sentence of a Court or Court-martial, and includes a person detained in prison under the provisions of Chapter VIII of the 6 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1882 or under the Prisoners Act, 1871
Civil Prisoner - any prisoner who is not a criminal prisoner;
RIGHTS OF PRISONERS
The Constitution impliedly guarantees several rights to prisoners in the form of fundamental rights under Articles 14(equality before law), 19(fundamental freedoms), 20(protection in respect of conviction for offenses), 21(protection of life and liberty), and 22(protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.)
Article 20 provides protection against double jeopardy and self-incrimination.
Article 22 guarantees to a prisoner the right to be presented before a magistrate within 24 hours and seek a counsel of his own choice.
2. INDIAN STATUTORY PROVISIONS
Prisoners Act, 1894 provides for accommodation, sanitary conditions, shelter, safe custody, and other rights of prisoners.
Prisoners Act, 1990 also provides for certain rights of prisoners.
Section 309 of the CrPC contains the right to a speedy trial.
Section 304 of CrPC provides legal aid at State expense to the accused in certain cases.
3. INTERNATIONAL INSTRUMENTS UPHOLDING RIGHTS OF PRISONERS
India has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is a core treaty on the protection of prisoners’ rights.
It is also a signatory to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.