The debate around conjugal visits for prisoners

Source– The post is based on the article “The debate around conjugal visits for prisoners” published in The Hindu on 8th December 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Judiciary and significant provisions of constitution

Relevance– Issues related to criminal justice system

News– The article explains the issue of conjugal visits for inmates.

The State of Punjab has allowed conjugal visits for inmates.

What are conjugal visits?

In the context of prisons,conjugal visits refer to the concept of allowing a prisoner to spend some time in privacy with his spouse within the precincts of a jail.

What is the significance of conjugal visits?

It is often argued that conjugal visits can have positive impacts in the form of psychological health benefits for prisoners, preservation of marital ties and, reduction in the rates of homosexuality and sexual aggression within prisons.

It is also argued that conjugal visits are a fundamental right of the spouses of the prisoners. Prisoner rights are internationally recognised through the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights etc. The right to maintain family relations including conjugal visits are included in these treaties.

Most prison Acts and Rules across the country accept the importance of maintenance of continuity in family and social relations.

 

What are the judicial views on conjugal visits?

Sunil Batra vs Delhi Administration (1979)– SC  judge Justice Iyer observed that “visits to prisoners by family and friends are solace in isolation. Only a dehumanised system can deprive prison inmates of this humane amenity.”

Jasvir Singh vs State of PunjabThe High Court held that this right to conjugality is available to prisoners under Article 21, subject to restrictions.

Meharaj vs State (2022)– The Madras HC observed that there have to be differential standards in enforcement of Article 21 for law abiders and law violators. Conjugal visits could not be held as a fundamental right. The prisoner would still be eligible to avail leave for conjugal visits if there are extraordinary reasons such as infertility treatments.

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