Protecting Prisoners’ right

Relevance: Prison reforms in India have been pending of late.  

Synopsis: Overcrowding in prisons has put several inmates at risk of COVID-19 infection and death. It is a violation of the human rights of prisoner. 

Background 
  • In India Prisons are overcrowded and it has left thousands of prisoners at risk of Covid infection and death. 
  • According to data, there are 12,715 inmates lodged in 11 sections of Tihar Jail alone as against the lodging capacity of 7,425. Out of them, 11,077 are undertrials. 
Violation of human rights 
  • Court in Charles Sobraj v. The Suptd., Central Jail, Tihar, 1978, opined that “imprisonment does not spell farewell to fundamental rights”. 
  • Overcrowded jails are a violation of the human rights of prisoners guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.  
  • Apart from risking the lives of inmates, ignorance of the poor conditions of prisons has also added to the misery of the families of those in jail.  For example, 
Laws / SC rulings in protection of Prisoners rights 
  • Article 14 (3)(c) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, states that an accused has the right to be tried without undue delay.  
  • In Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, 1979 the court has stated that the state is bound to provide legal assistance to prisoners, ensure their safe and timely release and safeguard their rights to a fair and speedy trial. 
  • Recent Supreme court direction 
  • Taking cognisance of this issue, the Supreme Court directed the States to examine releasing inmates, convicted or facing trial on non-serious charges, from jails either on regular bail or on parole. 
  •  It also directed them to provide transport facility to the prisoners to reach home.  

Given that States have started vaccinating prisoners too, the situation may improve soon. But India cannot ignore the problem of overcrowding, pandemic or no pandemic. 

Source: The Hindu 

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