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Written By: Shree Rastogi
All human beings are independent, free and equal in dignity and rights; and humans only become prisoners because of their actions and behaviors that lead them to be called as Prisoners but it does not mean ever that they should be treated like animals. Jail authorities who are told to look after them do not pay any attention to them. There are many places where there are different kinds of ways and treatments by which each and every prisoner to have gone through. In India which is world’s largest democratic country where there are free elections, a multiparty Parliamentary system and Independence of judiciary that take pride in their independence and that help to make a lively society but something has gone wrong in India. In some major cities of the country, the prisoners get tortured and abused.
“In this world jails are still workshops of torture, a storeroom in which human commodities are heartlessly kept and where varieties of prisoners range from driftwood juveniles to heroic dissenters”. Every person taken to a police station in connection with some of the other offense in our country is subjected to severe beating and torture through sticks; boots, belt, and wooden roller are most common instruments of beating. Naked and semi-naked men are a common sight in police lock-ups. And the other indifferent treatments are as follows:
- 1. That the prisoners are discriminated on the basis of caste, religion, gender etc. and the high-profile inmates manage to get bigger space and better facilities ‘ for a price’; while others have difficulty to stretch their legs in their stinking and cramped cells.
- That the prisoners are getting harsh mental and physical tortures, beaten and sexually humiliated in the jail in routine basis by the Police without any reason and no actions are taken against them.
- That the female prisoners are sexually abused or frequently exploited sexually, custodial raped, or molested by the jail authorities.
- Prisoners who get sick, like suffering from HIV or TB, etc. they are not treated properly and normal prisoners have to sleep with patient prisoners and are forced to work as labors if they show rejection they have to go through loads of abuses.
- Prisoners are sometimes killed by jail authorities through firing or any other method if they object.
- That the prisons are overcrowded and living conditions are inhumane, and they have to live in unhygienic living conditions. Toilets are not cleaned for days that led to skin diseases and other diseases to the prisoner’s; the food served in jail is so bad that is unfit for consumption, etc.
According to Article 21 of the Constitution of India, being in a educated society organized with law and a system as such, it is necessary to ensure for every citizen a reasonably dignified life and even if the person is confined or imprisoned because of his wrong, he is entitled to their rights unaffected by the punishment for wrongs, simply because if a person under trial or a convict, his rights cannot be denuded.
In the case of Sunil Batra V/s Delhi Administration (1994)4 SSC 260, the Supreme Court had occasion to deal with the rights of prisoner’s and gave a very obvious answer to the question whether prisoners are persons and whether they are entitled to fundamental rights and said to handcuff is to hoop harshly and to punish humiliating. The minimum freedom under which a detainee is entitled to under Article 19 cannot be cut down by the application of handcuffs.
In the case of Charles Shobraj vs. Superintendent (1978), the court said that prisoners are also human beings. Hence, all such rights except those that are taken away in the legitimate process of incarceration still remain with the prisoner. These include rights that are related to the protection of basic human dignity as well as those for development of the prisoners into a better human being”.
Article 14 of the constitution gives the right to equality and equal protection also to the prisoners. The Indian Supreme Court has been active in responding to prisoner’s violations in Indian jails and has, in the process, recognized a number of rights of the prisoner’s by interpreting Articles 21, 19,22,32,37 and 39 –A of the constitution in a positive and humane way.
According to Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, “No one shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
- Most of the prisoners are just under-trails, spending long years in the jail due to judicial delays or delay in trial.
- The basic thing to remember here is the dignity of an individual is a matter f concern for society as a whole.
- Torture, discrimination, killing etc. are all grave criminal acts and cannot be permitted in any law-abiding Such criminal acts within a law mandated place pose a serious challenge to the rule of law.
- Bail is granted but prisoners are not released.
- The callous and insensitive attitude of jail authorities.
- Corruption and other malpractices.
- Punishment carried out by jail authorities not coherent with the punishment given by the court, etc.
Day- by- day the condition of prisoners is becoming worst. Torture of prisoners in lock-ups is routine. An attorney who regularly defends those who have held in such lock-ups described the frequency of the “third degree”. Prisoners are also a human being; they also have human rights which are violated such as custodial death, custodial rapes, degrading treatment, physical violence/torture, police excess, not producing the prisoners to the court, poor quality of food, poor health system support, etc. They have committed a crime and get punished in the eyes of law, so they don’t need any extra punishment.
In the name of investigating crimes, extracting confessions, and pushing individuals by the law enforcement agencies, torture is inflicted not only upon the accused but also on bona fide petitioner’s, complainant or informants amount to cruel, inhuman, barbaric and degrading treatment, grossly derogatory to the individual dignity of the human person.