by Sonika Bisht

This article mainly focuses on the human rights and the criminal justice in India. The paper introduces the relationship between human rights and criminal justice in India. It discusses the importance of human rights in administration of criminal justice. It also discusses the multiple reasons and causes for violations of human rights of people.


Human rights are those minimal rights, which every independent person must have as the citizen of India, irrespective of any other consideration of caste, creed, gender, religion, etc. These rights are naturally inherent. However, human rights are violated at every stage of life. Not only by our fellow individuals but are also violated by such social institutions which are meant to protect the rights of citizens. The denial of human rights and fundamental freedom is not only an individual and personal tragedy. It also creates situations of chaos in society.

[i]The criminal justice system plays a major role in effectuating human rights and thereby, protects the human rights of the citizens of a country. The criminal justice system has the power to control crime, prevent crime and punish the criminals. The pre-trial procedure involves arrest and Investigation under the Criminal

Procedure Code 1973.Criminal Justice System has composed mainly three vital organs, namely (i) Police, (ii) Judiciary and (iii) Prison. In India, the human rights have been characterised as fundamental rights and are given a special status. Fundamental Rights are important for the fact that they are considered inherent for every citizen and thus, their violation gives the citizens, the right to move to the Supreme Court and the High Courts under Article 32 and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution respectively.


Globally, criminal justice systems are principal sources of severe human rights infringement, including extrajudicial executions, torture, arbitrary detention, and unfairness. [ii]Over the past 10 years, the International Human Rights Clinic has developed considerable proficiency in documenting rights abuses in criminal justice factors and recommending for productive investigations, remedies, and reforms.

Criminal justice system of any country is the basis of establishing peace and tranquillity. It does not only include the judicial system but also the investigative machinery. Criminal justice is one of the critical areas of human rights where the legal system is tested on a continuous basis for preservation of peace and security in society on the one hand, and prevention of human dignity of both victims of crime and person accused of it, on the other. The importance of the right of access to justice for those interacting with the criminal justice system as complainants, suspects, status offenders or prisoners cannot be over-emphasised. As already stated, it is perhaps the most necessary of all human rights in the criminal justice system. The level to which human rights are valued and sheltered within the context of its criminal proceedings is an important measure of society’s civilization. By and large, the Supreme Court has, through progressive and humanistic understanding enlarged the rights of the suspect and the accused with a view to safeguarding the interest of the innocent and preventing abused or misuse of police powers. Of course, the development of law by the Supreme Court in this direction has evoked criticism from certain quarters but this criticism is not based on any empirical research.


The functionaries of the criminal justice system have the duty to safeguard the human rights of those who come in contact with them. They have to ensure that those who weaken the societal harmony by committing offences of any kind do not go without punishment. It is also their duty to make sure that the rights of such people are not dishonoured in the process of exploration and trial. This calls for a fine balancing of individual human rights and the societal interests while combating crime. It is familiar awareness that in our country the state functionaries from the very stage of investigation are culpable of various forms of human rights infringement and the abuse of human rights. Indian criminal justice system has solemnly fallen in disregard because of the perennial sluggishness and non-scientific investigation of crimes by the investigators, inordinate delay in the discarding of criminal cases by the adjudicators and poor rate of convictions. Police, which is a crucial functionary in the criminal justice system, has failed to be successful the self-belief of the common man. There is a vital need to bring changes in the police team both from within and from outside with an effective institutional grievance mechanism. This applies to action machinery as well. In some recent cases the Supreme Court dealt with the important role that public prosecutors have to perform in a criminal trial and castigated them for their failure to perform their duties under law. It is their duty to ensure that the guilty is brought to book and fair trial is ensured to all. The present prison system in India has collapsed due to their being over crowded by pre-trial and post conviction prisoners with overall appalling conditions within the prisons. All these problems have been vying for remedial actions at the hands of the policy makers and legislators but unfortunately these remain unattended substantially.


The word prisoner means any person who is kept under custody in jail or prison because he/she committed an illegal act by law of the land. A prisoner also known as a jailbird is anyone who against their will is dispossessed of liberty. This liberty can be disheartened by forceful restrain or detention Prisoners rights deal with the rights of the inmates while behind bars. Prisoner’s basic legal rights can’t be taken away from them. The basic rights include right to food and water, right to have an attorney to defend himself, protection from torture, violence and racial harassment. Section 1 of the Prison Security Act1992, 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 locked up in legal custody. By my point of view if a person has conflict of the laws by committing any act which is prohibited under it, it is not fair to say that, if a person committee an act which is prohibited by law then the person is not discarded as a human being and that he can be deprived of those aspects of life which are essential to maintain his human decorum. We live in civilized society availability with the law and a system as such, it is important for every citizen having human rights. Even if the person is restricted because of the crime he committed, he is endorsed to their rights unchanged by the punishment for wrongs, simply because if a person is under trial, his rights cannot be discarded as a whole. It is a settled system that prisoners go to prison to be confined behind bars as the punishment of their crime and not to get subjected to physical and mental abuse.

Other than the basic human needs, which have now been included in the area of right to life under the Indian Constitution due to the judgements of the Supreme Court, right to life also allows a person to avail the guarantee of protection in cases of criminal justice administration. “The prisoners are no longer considered as an object or a slave of the nation, who the law would leave at the prison door and who would be convicted to ‘civil death’.”  It is progressively been established that a person does not disqualify to be a person just because he committed a crime and put behind the bars.

In India various legislations dealing with rights of prisoners have been enacted. The Supreme Court of India, through interpretation of Article 21 of the Constitution, has developed human rights jurisprudence for the protection of prisoners’ rights for the maintenance of human dignity. Deprivation of life and liberty is justifiable according to procedure established by law but the procedure cannot be arbitrary, unfair or unreasonable.

[iii]In Maneka Gandhi Vs Union of India the Apex Court laid down that the procedure cannot be arbitrary, unfair or unreasonable. This was further endorsed in Francis Coralie Mullin Vs the Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi and Others, when the court held that Article judiciary 21 requires that no one shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except by procedure established by law and this procedure must be reasonable, fair and just and not arbitrary, whimsical or fanciful. The Indian judiciary has been very active and attentive in protecting the human rights of the prisoners.

In Zahid Hussein and Others Vs State of West Bengal, the Supreme Court observed that the conduct of the petitioners while in jail is an important factor to be considered as to whether they have lost their potentiality in committing crime due to long period of detention or not.

In R.D. Upadhyay Vs State of Andhra Pradesh and Others, the Supreme Court considered the issue of development of children who are in jail with their mothers, either as under testing prisoners or convicts. The Court observed that the jail environment was certainly not pleasant for development of the children. A study was ordered to be conducted by the National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Sciences where many suggestions were made for proper care of children of women prisoners. It was further recommended that arrest of women suspects be made only by lady police. Such arrests should be sparingly made as it affects innocent children who are taken into custody with their mothers.

[iv]Apart from the Constitutional rights there are also statutory rights available to the prisoners.


In this article, it is concluded that criminal law has always been a great source for the enlargement of human rights. These human rights and there place in the criminal justice system and constitutional jurisprudence are explored alongside the judicial craft that led to their expansion. The criminal justice system has the power to control crime, prevent crime and punish the criminals. The level to which human rights are valued and sheltered within the context of its criminal proceedings is an important measure of society’s civilization. Here, human rights perspective of criminal justice in India is also being concluded. And also we have discussed the prisoner’s rights in respect of human rights.

[i] P.N Bhagwati, Human Rights in the Criminal Justice system, JSTOR,

[ii] Criminal Justice & Human Rights, Human rights@Harvard Law,

[iii] Anuj Kumar, Human rights of prisoners, legal desire (June, 10. 2016),

[iv] Vivek Narayan Sharma, Prisoners’ rights in India, Toi Opinion (Oct, 20. 2018. 8:58 PM),

[v] Picture: KnowLaw



  1. Human rights and criminal justice are very important topic that we all should know and the author explained it in a great manner. Highly appreciate her work.


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