Human Rights Day: Rights of Prisoners under Indian Law

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New Delhi:

Our Constitution has bestowed on the citizens safeguards and rights against crimes, acts of felony, and any act or acts that may endanger their personal safety or the safety of their kinsfolks.  

Law has made provisions to apprehend the perpetrators and criminals who indulge in such anti-social acts and sentence them to prison terms of various degrees. But at the same time it has been mandated that the prisoners be accorded several rights so as to ensure that they too serve their terms within the ambits of law and their rights as otherwise are not violated.   

Prisoner’s Rights under the Constitution of India

Prisoners are persons and have some rights and do not lose their basic constitutional rights and are entitled to rights as a normal human being when they are behind the prison. These rights are provided under the Constitution of India, the Prisons Act, 1894 etc.

A prisoner is entitled to all his fundamental rights unless his liberty has been constitutionally curtailed. The Supreme Court has emphasized that a prisoner, whether a convict, under-trial or detainee does not cease to be a human being and, while lodged in jail, enjoys all fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India including the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution.

Even a person is convicted and deprived of his liberty in accordance with the procedure established by law; a prisoner still retains the residue of Constitutional Rights.

Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution of India are available to the prisoners as well as freemen. Prison walls do not keep out fundamental rights.

Article 14 says that the State shall not deny to any person equality before law or the equal protection of laws within the territory of India.

Article 19 guarantees six freedoms to the all citizens of India. Among these freedoms certain freedoms cannot be enjoyed by the prisoners except the “freedom of speech and expression” and “freedom to become member of an association.”

Article 21 says that No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

Right To Silence

The ‘right to silence’ is a principle of common law. It means that normally courts or tribunals of fact should not be invited or encouraged to conclude, by parties or prosecutors, that a suspect or an accused is guilty merely because he has refused to respond to questions put to him by the police or by the Court. The defendant if he so desires can be a witness in his trial.

Right To Know The Grounds of Arrest

According to Section 50(1) Cr.P.C. “every police officer or other person arresting any person without warrant shall forthwith communicate to him full particulars of the offence for which he is arrested or other grounds for such arrest.”

The right to be informed of the grounds of arrest is a precious right of the arrested person.

Information Regarding The Right To Be Released On Bail

Section 50(2) Cr.P.C. provides that “where a police officer arrests without warrant any person other than a person accused of a non- bailable offence, he shall inform the person arrested that he is entitled to be released in bail that he may arrange for sureties on his.”

Right To Be Taken Before A Magistrate Without Delay

Whether the arrest is made without warrant by a police officer, or whether the arrest is made under a warrant by any person, the person making the arrest must bring the arrested person before a judicial officer without unnecessary delay. It is also provided that the arrested person should not be confined in any place other than a police station before he is taken to the magistrate. These matters have been provided in Cr.P.C. under Sections 56 and 76.

Right Of Not Being Detained For More Than 24 Hours Without Judicial Scrutiny

Whether the arrest is without warrant or under a warrant, the arrested person must be brought before the magistrate or court within 24 hours.

Right To A Fair Trial

The Code of Criminal Procedure provides that for a trial to be fair, it must be an open court trial. This provision is designed to ensure that convictions are not obtained in secret. In some exceptional cases the trial may be held in camera. Every accused is entitled to be informed by the court before taking the evidence that he is entitled to have his case tried by another court and if the accused subsequently moves such application for transfer of his case to another court the same must be transferred. However, the accused has no right to select or determine by which other court the case is to be tried.

Right To A Speedy Trial

The Constitution provides an accused the right to a speedy trial. Although this right is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, it has been interpreted by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in the judgment of Hussainara Khatoon. This judgment mandates that an investigation in trial should be held “as expeditiously as possible”.

Right To Consult A Legal Practitioner

Article 22(1) provides that no person who is arrested shall be denied the right to consult a legal practitioner of his choice. Further, as has been held by the Supreme Court that state is under a constitutional mandate (implicit in article 21) to provide free legal aid to an indigent accused person, and the Constitutional obligation to provide free legal aid does not arise only when the trial commences but also attaches when the accused is for the first time produced before the magistrate, as also when remanded from time to time. The right of an arrested person to consult his lawyer begins from the moment of his arrest. The consultation with the lawyer may be in the presence of police officer but not within his hearing.

Rights Of Free Legal Aid

Supreme Court has held that the state is under a Constitutional mandate (implicit in Article 21) to provide free legal aid to an indigent accused person, and the constitutional obligation to provide free legal aid does not arise only when the trial commences but also attaches when the accused is for the first time produced before the magistrate, as also when remanded from time to time.

Right To Be Examined By A Medical Practitioner

Section 54 now renumbered as Section 54(1) provides examination of arrested person by medical practitioner at the request of the arrested person.

Right Of The Accused To Produce An Evidence

The accused even has right to produce witness in his defence in case of police report or private defence. Confession statements by accused to the police are absolutely excluded under Section 25, Evidence Act.

Other rights include:

# Right of inmates of protective homes

# Right to speedy trial

# Right against cruel and unusual punishment

# Right against custodial violence and death in police lock-ups or encounters

# Right to live with human dignity

# Right to meet friends and consult lawyer

# Rights against solitary confinement, handcuffing & bar fetters and protection from torture

# Right to reasonable wages in prison

# Accommodation and sanitary conditions for prisoners

# Provision for the shelter and safe custody of the excess number of prisoners who cannot be safely kept in any prison

# Provisions relating to the examination of prisoners by qualified Medical Officer

# Provisions relating to separation of prisoners, containing female and male prisoners, civil and criminal prisoners and convicted and undertrial prisoners

# Provisions relating to treatment of undertrials, civil prisoners, parole and temporary release of prisoners

 

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