Table of Contents
A prisoner is a person deprived of the exercise of liberty by imprisonment or confinement as punishment for committing a crime. However, imprisonment or trial does not negate the need for human rights to be respected to survive and protect life. In addition to the basic human needs included in the scope of the right to life under the current Indian Constitution of India concerning the judgment handed down by the Supreme Court the right to life also allows a person to benefit from guarantees of protection in criminal cases. We will see the difference between the under-trial and normal prisoners and how human rights violation is taking place.
There is a difference between under-trial prisoners and normal prisoners where under-trial prisoners are not yet proven ‘guilty’ by the court but the normal prisoners are the convicts. Under trial-prisoners are accused in judicial custody during the time their case is being heard in the court.
Under-trial prisoners, thus, are those that have been imprisoned during the investigation, inquiry, or trial of the crime for which they were arrested. As this being said, an under-trial prisoner ‘may’ or ‘may not be’ convicted as guilty by the court. During the Winter 2022 session of the Parliament of India, Ajay Kumar Mishra, a member of parliament stated that out of 5,54,034 prisoners, 4,27,165 are under-trial prisoners which is 76% of the prison population of India.
However, there are various reasons for the delay of justice in India due to which lakhs and lakhs of cases are pending in our country. This is why one of the most fundamental human rights concerns regarding these prisoners is this lengthy judicial process which often takes a lifetime to begin.
Role of the Supreme Court in the Protection of the human rights of Normal and under-trial prisoners
Recently, the Supreme Court has been vigilant about human rights violations against prisoners. Attempts to extend the terms of prisoners’ rights by invoking basic prisoners’ rights as interpreted by the Supreme Court of India. Article 21 of the Constitution states that “except in accordance with the procedures prescribed by law, no one shall be deprived of life and personal liberty”.
The right to life and personal liberty are the pillars of human rights in India. Through its effective approach and activism, the Indian judicial system has become an institution that provides effective remedies for human rights violations.
The Supreme Court of India has given particular attention to the inhuman treatment of prisoners in some cases and has given proper instructions to prison and police authorities for protecting the rights of the prisoners and those in custody. The Court has read the right against torture into Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution, observing that ‘the treatment of a human being which offends human dignity imposes avoidable torture and reduction of man to the level of animals is certainly arbitrary and can be challenged under Article 14.
The court also promptly ordered that the inhuman treatment meted out to the accused in police custody is a gross and blatant violation of human rights. In the absence of any legislative or executive directives and guidelines, the court the role of activists and adjudicated many such cases, one of those cases being DK. Basu v.West Bengal.
In dealing with the case, the court issued a number of leading options, including on the issue of torture in the prisons, in order to eradicate this crime and better protect and promote human rights. In the above case, the Supreme Court defined torture and analyzed its impact.
Protection of prisoners’ rights as prescribed in different conventions
A) The First United Nations Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (Geneva, 1955) adopted The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which was the first internationally recognized document that laid the rights of prisoners. The document also states about the treatment of under-trial prisoners. The sections of the document which correlate with the international human rights of under-trial prisoners are as follows-
- Rule 86 – Under-trial prisoners should be given separate rooms to reside from the normal prisoners.
- Rule 87 – Under-trial prisoners have a choice to arrange for their food from outside, either through the administration or through their loved ones.
- Rule 88 – Under-trial prisoners are usually allowed to wear the clothing of their choice.
- Rule 89 – An under-trial prisoner has a choice to work or not, depending on the whims of the prisoner. If an inmate chooses to work, he will be paid.
B) The General Assembly of the UN in 1988 has also adopted The Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment which gives privileges are granted to these prisoners by presuming them and treating them as innocent until proven guilty. It also stipulates that any unnecessary restraint of prisoners during trial is prohibited.
The idea of human rights is free from all restrictions and everyone has an inherent right to access these whether a free man or a prisoner. More than 75% of prisoners are under trial. Even after various measures these under-trial prisoners are ill-treated.