Right of Prisoners in India: A Comparative Analysis to USA, UK and Australia

by Saptak Majumdar

“Crime is the outcome of a diseased mind and jail must have an environment of hospital for treatment and care”.            

                                                                                                               –   Mahatma Gandhi

Abstract: When a person commits a crime and is punished for it, it does not make him inhuman. Therefore, the State has no right to treat his inanimate state. The Indian Constitution guarantees everyone’s right to life and freedom, and they cannot be deprived unless there is a due process of law. This clause also applies to prisoners, which is why some protection is provided to them. This paper explains the existing constitutional and legal framework in India compared with USA, UK and Australia to guarantee the rights of prisoners and clarifies various administrative and judicial guidelines issued from time to time regarding the needs, requirements and care of prisoners.


The right to life must always be interpreted from the broadest perspective, not just a right, but also the quality of life we ​​live. The imprisoned prisoners are the result of their violation of a country’s land law, but their basic human rights are granted by various international conventions and constitutional laws and must not be violated at any cost. The investigation involved different laws and regulations passed in India related to the rights that prisoners can enforce. He also talked about how basic human rights are abused in prisons. Legislation and enlightening precedents are additional factors needed to determine the rights of prisoners.

The term ” prisoner ” can be used to refer to any person who violates the law of the Country and is therefore detained by the police in order to restrict their freedom in order to maintain the welfare of society. A person in prison allows himself to suffer under the most inhumane and contemptuous conditions. They suffered human rights violations in prison. But we must remember that prisoners in modern democracy have no civil rights, but reformist methods must be allowed. One cannot reform himself and become a better person without adopting reform methods. If we conduct reality checks on prisons, we will hear a few words about overcrowding, and lack of security[i]. Not only they are isolated from the world, they are also at risk even in prison. According to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), they should be treated with dignity and their right to life, including their basic requirements and safety, should not be violated. They must also be protected from inhumane torture. Human rights are vital to a person’s survival. Therefore, in spite of the crimes committed, prisoners must not be allowed to suffer.

Prisoner Rights in International Conventions

After World Wars, some citizens were deprived of their rights and some prisoners were forced to work or were recklessly killed. This led to changes in international prisoner law. The United Nations had established certain minimum requirements for the treatment of prisoners. It provides standards that state that prisoners receive adequate food, good hygiene, bedding, and medical facilities. Article-3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly establishes that both prisoners and free people in society must enjoy the right to life. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights explores the same issues and art. Article-10 stipulates that no one shall be deprived of liberty and human dignity must be respected. Reduce the line between the defendants before and after the trial. The basic objective of these treaties and conventions is that prisons are not subjected to inhuman torture or degrading treatment[ii].

Main issues regarding violation of Human Rights of prisoners

The basic human rights granted to all people are violated every day in prison. Let them suffer in a crowded environment in the narrow prison cells along with other prisoners. Incarceration for rape in prisons is increasing, and it is one of the places where a person is restricted by social welfare and that person eventually loses their dignity. The level of physical torture and violence that prisoners face is unbearable and sometimes leads to what we call death in prison. Various prisons around the world have witnessed genocide, slavery and the murder of prisoners in the name of encounters. The right to life, which is a basic requirement, has been violated. Malnutrition is also a vital cause of death in prison. They were not provided with adequate food and sanitary conditions.

Several examples from different prisons around the world can explain human rights violations[iii].

  1. In Venezuelan prisons, inmates face rape and extortion, with only one guard taking care of 150 people.
  2. In the Model Prison of Panama, it can be observed that the prison population exceeds its capacity.
  3. In United States of America, the American Civil Liberties Union investigated the issue of prisoners in solitary confinement and stated that there is a great need to stop curbing violations.
  4. In Iraq, there were some reports of abuse in prison in 2003. They said that prisoners were forced to remove their clothes and subjected to inhumane torture.

                                             Prisoner Rights in India

In India, the prisoners’ rights are guaranteed and protected by the different Legislations. Such are as follows ——-

A. The Indian Constitution[iv]: –

Article – 14, 20, 21 & 22 Of the Indian Constitution specifically guaranteed the rights of the Prisoners of India. Article-21 is a unique term that describes right to life and personal liberty. Under the range, certain rights find places such as food, bonds, fast testing and free legal assistance rights. Article-21 also offers prisoners with violence of detention and health rights to maintain basic human dignity. There was a specific law on the rights of Indian prisoners. They have the right of other rights for non-human heterotrophic treatment in prison. The rights of the interview and the right to know friends and family are important rights of prisoners.

B. Other Legislations[v]: –

1. Prisoners Act, 1894

This act is one of the oldest prison laws in India. Chapter VII of the law stipulates matters related to the employment of prisoners, so it says that they can work and earn income with the permission of the prison director, but the rules stipulate that they should not work more than 9 hours a day. Section- 37 of the Prisoners Act of 1894 stipulates in any case, if the prisoner becomes ill, the responsible officer will talk to the jailer and must call the subordinate doctor immediately. Other parts of the law discuss whether civil or trial prisoners can obtain their products, such as clothing, bedding, or food, from outside the prison.

2. The Transfer of Prisoner Act, 1950

The purpose of the act is to allow prisoners to be transferred between states in India. The purpose is to provide professional training, reduce prison overcrowding, and maintain basic human dignity.

3. Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990

The act stipulates that, taking into account all disability factors, there is no distinction between prisoners and non-prisoners. The protection and safety of disabled prisoners and the required accommodation are a key point that should be reflected here.

                                Impact of cOVID – 19 in Indian Prisons

Coronavirus, one of the deadliest epidemics facing the world today. In the prison, there are some overcrowded and underestimated prisoners who are in trouble. Countries are unwilling to verify the factor of overcrowding in prisons. Due to overcrowding, the State Government was forced to take action, releasing several detainees on parole, and the prison was also ordered to close. Health experts say that overcrowding in prisons can cause health problems, and the disease can spread because it is an infectious disease and becomes a terrible situation. It is said that it will not only infect the prisoners but also the guards. In Madhya Pradesh prisons, some 20 inmates have reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus[vi].

After predicting the pandemic, the World Health Organization urged prison officials and governments in many countries to reduce the number of prisoners because the virus is spreading rapidly.

At present, there are two main situations to focus by The Governments to pay attention to: one is

  1. The model prison manual,

and ,

  • The ignorance of the mental health of the prisoners.

The Supreme Court asked the State Government to review the matter. The Chief Justice of India Shri Sharad Arbind Bobde, stated that a committee should be established to classify prisoners and distinguish the types of prisoners who can be released. Statistics show that as of April, about 12,000 prisoners have been released.

                                                    landmark Judgement

  1. M.H. Hoskot  v. State of Maharashtra[vii]

The Supreme Court of India stated that if the defendant cannot provide legal aid, the state must provide free legal aid to the defendant.

  • Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar[viii]

In this case, if the prisoner on trial remains in detention for a longer period of time, then Article-21 of the Constitution of India will be violated.

3. D. K. Basu v. State Of West BENGAL[ix]

One of the most remarkable judgment given by the Apex court in the case of an increasing number of custodial deaths in India. This case made a landmark judgement, which stipulated guidelines for arresting a person, otherwise more crimes would be committed in the name of justice.

4. Hirst v. United Kingdom[x]

The fact is that the prisoner cannot vote on the U/S – 3 of the 1983 People’s Representative Act, but a case was later filed in which he claimed that his voting rights had been violated. The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights announced that the voting rights of British prisoners can be revoked in accordance with the law.

  • Prem Sankar v. Delhi Administration[xi]

The court ordered UOI to investigate the matter, saying that it was inhumane to wear handcuffs and violated Article 21.

In this case in the United States, the prisoner went to court to demand compensation, claiming that the prison guards did not open his cell. Therefore, due to their negligence, the court transcript was lost. It is said that prisoners have limited privacy rights.

                                        Suggestion and Conclusion

By examining a contemplative situation, stringent legislation must be made for their welfare, as well as better protection must be provided to them by judge-made laws. In the current situation of the epidemic worldwide, many prisoners are released because they mostly committing non-heinous crime. The criminal situation will make a crime to commit. Therefore, adequate rehabilitation and periodic approaches should be adopted. When the member generated by income goes to jail for fraud, he or her family must suffer.

Developing countries are not providing financial support for that particular family. Families without bread in the mouth cannot think about buying a lawyer to save the prisoners. Therefore, the State must maintain fundamental right equally and treat them as well as others. UNODC is firmly believed that prison reforms are prison obligations only if prison policy is governed by prison. The prison and the best health care systems are affiliated with prison, and national laws can be fuel to be processed.

[i] http://www.radheykrishnafoundation.org/rights-of-prisoners/

[ii] https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-75-rights-of-prisoners.html

[iii] http://www.britannica.com/topic/prison

[iv] The Constitution of India, https://legislative.gov.in/constitution-of-india

[v] https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-6228-rights-of-prisoners-under-indian-laws.html

[vi] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/lawtics/prisoners-rights-in-india/

[vii] AIR 1987 SC 1548

[viii] AIR 1979 SC 1360

[ix] AIR 1997 SC 610

[x] (2006) 42 EHRR 41

[xi] AIR 1980 SC 1535

[xii] 545 F.2d 565 (7th Cir. 1976)

[xiii] Picture: The Sentinel Assam


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