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RIGHTS OF PRISONERS IN INDIA WITH SPECIAL FOCUS NO CUSTODIAL DEATH

Author: Raushni Ranjan Pradhan, II Year of B.A.,LL.B from law college dehradun.


The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to every citizen. One of the most important rights amongst fundamental right is the Right of Freedom.


A prisoners in prison has a different status from that of a free man. Where an ordinary man has all the authority to freely practice his rights ensured by the law, the prisoners are restricted to do so and cannot claim all their fundamental right available to an ordinary man. Prison is basically for the development of the prisoners to make them a better human being. It is a legitimate process to take away the rights of the prisoners, but such rights still remain with them, which they automatically regain once the duration of the imprisonment is over. But during the imprisonment their such rights are restricted, that definitely does not mean that they shall not be treated like a human being because at the end of the day they are also human beings.


The objective of the prison authorities is to reform the prisoner and to make him return to the society useful and save for the future. No doubt that the prisoners have restricted rights behind the wall of the prison, but they have certain rights which accompany them to the prison that include the right to speedy trial, free legal aids, right against torture, right against inhuman and degrading treatment.


There are six freedoms which are given to the citizens of India under article 19 of the Indian Constitution among which certain freedoms such as freedom to reside and to settle, freedom of movement, freedom of profession, occupation, trade or business cannot be enjoyed by the prisoners due to the very nature of such freedoms. But there are other freedoms under article 19 which can be enjoyed by the prisoners even behind the bars according to the limitations of prison laws such freedoms include freedom of speech and expression, freedom to become a member of an association etc. No authorities has the power to take away such rights even from the prisoners behind the prison wall, and any form of torture to the prisoners or violation of any such right amount to the worst crime. In general, the word custody implies the protective care or guardianship of someone or something, we can say that custody means to confine the personal liberty of a person and restrict the movement of a person.


Custody is classified into two categories

Police Custody and Judicial Custody. Police custody refers to when the police arrest a suspect involved in a cognizable offence in order to prevent an offence related to the destruction of evidence and to further investigate and procure information related to the crime. When a person is in police custody, it's the duty of the police to produce that person before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours and cannot continue the custody of the person without the permission of the magistrate. Without the authority of the Magistrate, no person can be detained beyond 24 hours. When the police produce a person before the Magistrate the Magistrate has two options either to remand the accused to the police or to judicial custody.


Section 167(2) of CrPC gives the discretionary power to Magistrate. At police custody the police have all the time to access the accused for interrogation, and the accused shall be detained in the police lock-up. Whereas in Judicial Custody the accused will be sent to the jail, and he will be under the custody of the magistrate.Under judicial custody the police may interrogate the accused under a limited time only on the permission from the concerned magistrate.


In case of prisoners, the term custody does not carry any impression of something harmful or evil. No civilized law calls for custodial cruelty. Thus Custodial death has become a threat to our society. Any form of torture or inhuman treatment during investigation, interrogation or otherwise would be voilation of Article 21 and the rights inherent in Article 21 and 22(1) of the Constitution shall be carefully and honestly protected. If the functionaries of the Government who are authorized to protect the law become lawbreakers, it would definitely encourage lawlessness and every man would have the tendency to become law-unfollowing, thereby leading to anarchism.


The police play an essential role in safeguarding our life, liberty and freedom. Thus the police must act in a responsible manner to protect and respect the human rights of the people, and they must remember that they are under the law, not above it.The police can be held liable in case of voilating the human rights.


In the past decade it has been observed that the number of deaths in the police lock-ups has increased day by day.


According to the figures of Amnesty International in 1992, there were 415 custodial deaths in the year 1985 to 1991, and the figures compiled by the National Crime Record Bureau, there were 258 rapes and 197 deaths in the police custody during the year 1990-92. The people from poor and backward sections of the society become the victims of custodial violence.


The important consideration for custodial death are personal enmity, caste and political consideration and at times pecuniary benefits. These factors hold more place rather than investigation of cases. Incidents of Torture, assault and deaths in police custody have assumed wider dimensions and have increased in alarming proportion. Even as courts have been imposing compensation holding the state liable for several acts committed by the police or other employees the number of custodial deaths and violence reach the courts regularly.


In the case of Smt. In State of Orissa, a letter was sent by Smt. Nilabati Behera to the Supreme Court stating that her twenty a two-year-old son, Suman Behera had died in police custody. The Orissa police had arrested Suman Behera for investigation for being involved in the offence of theft, and he was detained at the police outpost.


The next day, his dead body was found near the railway track. Smt. Nilabati Behera alleged that his son died in police custody after being inflicted with several injuries and the lacerations on his body indicated an unnatural death. The honorable Supreme Court took suo moto action and converted it into a writ petition under article 32 of the Indian Constitution. The petitioner claimed compensation for the violation of her son's fundamental right to life guaranteed under article 21.


Section 1 of the Prison Security Act 1992 defines the term prisoner. The word prisoner means any person for the time being in a prison as a result of any requirement imposed by a court or otherwise that he be detained in legal custody.


A prisoner is a person who is deprived of liberty against their will. The prisoner can be by confinement, captivity, or by forcible restraint. When a person is imprisoned, he becomes a prisoner. Even behind the walls of the prison, a person does not lose all the rights. They only lose a part of their rights which are necessarily required for the confinement, and the rest of their rights are preserved. Both national and international law governs the rights of the civil and military prisoners. In India, the rights of the prisoners are protected by the International Conventions and the Constitution of India, enacted by the legislatures like The Prisons Act, 1894, The Prisoners Act, 1900.


The rights are also protected by the and interpreted by the Judiciary like a person cannot be treated as a slave or bounded labour even though the person is in prison. All the rights of the prisoners are protected and guaranteed. Our Constitution provide basic fundamental rights under Article 14, 19, 20, 21 and 22 which imply that it deals with the rights of prisoners. Article 14 deals with equality before law and equal protection of laws. Article 20 deals with the right to life and personal liberty. In the case of T.V. Vatheeswaran v. State of Tamil Nadu, it was held that the Article 14, 19 and 21 are available to the prisoners as well as to the freemen.


Article 21 deals with the the Right to Life and Personal liberty. Prisoners are also human beings and in a number of Supreme Court cases it has been stated and recognised the rights of the prisoners so that a better rehabilitative environment is provided to them in order to become a better person and do not have to suffer during the course of imprisonment. It is the duty of both the state and central government to not only provide infrastructure, manpower and humane conditions for rehabilitation and rightful survival of prisoners, but also to provide information of their rights behind the bar at the right time to avoid any kind of torture or abuse.