The Rights of Prisoners in India


It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside the jail. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but how it treats its lowest ones.

If a person has committed a crime and is behind the bars, he does not cease to be a human being. He is born with equality and thus all legal rights are enforceable. The principle of the criminal justice system in India is that if a person is a criminal that does not mean that he is a criminal for his lifetime. As Mahatma Gandhi has said:

Hate the crime, not the Criminal

In our constitution, Part III guarantees rights to prisoners. Section 1 of the Prison Security Act 1992 defines the term “Prisoner”. The word prisoner means any person who is kept under custody in jail or prison because he/she committed an act prohibited by law of the land. The following Laws are there to protect prisoners:-

The Prisons Act,1894

Some of the important provisions of the Act are:-

  • Proper accommodation and sanitary condition to the prisoners,
  • Keep a check on the prisoner’s physical and mental well-being,
  • Provide the qualified medical officer to the prisoners,
  • Separate cell for male, female, criminal, civil, and under-trial prisoners, 
  • There are provisions for the temporary release of prisoners, treatment of under-trials, civil prisoners, and parole.

The Prisoners Act,1990

  • It is the responsibility of the government to remove prisoners, which is of unsound mind to a lunatic asylum and another place where he will be given proper treatment.
  • This gives the right to any high court in the case to pardon the prisoner.

The Transfer of Prisoners Act,1950

  • This Act permits the transfer of prisoners from one state to another state for vocational training or from over-populated jail to a less congested jail.

The Prisoners (Attendance in Court) Act,1955

  • This Act contains provisions authorizing the removal of prisoners to a civil or criminal court for giving evidence or for answering the charge of an offense.

Constitution of India and the Rights of Prisoners

The major rights ensured under the Constitution are not supreme and numerous limitations have been forced on their pleasure. Right to opportunity of individual is perhaps the main rights among the essential rights. At the point when an individual is sentenced or placed in jail his status is not the same as that of a standard individual. A prisoner can’t guarantee every one of the basic rights that are accessible to a common individual. The Supreme Court of India and different High Courts in India have examined the extent of different choices. There is no assurance of prisoner privilege as such in the Constitution of India. Notwithstanding, certain rights which have been counted in Part III of the Constitution are accessible to the prisoner likewise in light of the fact that a prisoner stays a “human” inside the jail. 

  • Article 20 of The Indian Constitution gives Protection in regard of conviction for offences (1) No individual will be indicted for any offence with the exception of infringement of the law in power at the hour of the commission of the demonstration charged as an offence, (2) No individual will be arraigned and rebuffed for a similar offence more than once (3) No individual blamed for any offence will be constrained to be an observer against himself. 
  • Article 21 of the constitution gives that no individual will be denied of life or individual freedom besides as per technique set up by law. 
  • Article 22 of The Indian Constitution gives Protection against capture and confinement in certain cases(1) No individual who is captured will be kept in care without being educated, when might be, of the reason for such capture nor will he be denied the option to counsel, and to be guarded by, a lawful specialist of his choice(2) Every individual who is captured and confined in guardianship will be delivered before the closest judge inside a time of 24 hours of such capture barring the time important for the excursion from the spot of capture to the court of the officer and no such individual will be kept in care past the said period without the authority of a justice.

Rights of Prisoners under Indian Penal Code 1860

  • Section 166 of Indian Penal Code gives, Public worker resisting law, with expectation to make injury any individual will be rebuffed with straightforward detainment for a term which may stretch out to 1 year, or with fine, or with both. 
  • Section 167 of Indian Penal Code accommodates discipline of a community worker outlining an off base archive with goal to cause injury and so on 
  • Section 220 of Indian Penal Code furnishes discipline to an individual with legitimate power to restrict an individual and so forth who corruptly or perniciously limits any individual, realizing that in doing so he is acting in opposition to law. 
  • Section 330 of the Indian punitive code is explicitly routed to the causing of hurt to blackmail an admission. 
  • Section 340 to 348 of Indian Penal Code comprises a gathering of sections managing illegitimate limitation, and unfair imprisonment and their aggravations. 
  • Section 376(2) of Indian Penal Code manages bothered type of assault submitted by cops and other local officials like people accountable for emergency clinic and women’s institutions etc.

Rights of Prisoners under CrPc 1973

  • Section 49 gives that the individual captured will not be exposed to more restriction than is needed to forestall his escape. 
  • Section 56 gives individual captured to be taken before Magistrate of official responsible for police headquarters. 
  • Section 57 gives that no cop will keep in authority an individual captured for over 24 hours. 
  • Section 163 gives that,(1) No cop or other individual in power will offer or make, or cause to be offered, or make, any such instigation, danger or guarantee as is referenced in section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act,1872(2) But no cop or individual will forestall, by any alert or something else, any individual from making throughout any examination under this part any explanation which he might be arranged to make willingly: given that nothing in this sub-section will influence the arrangements of sub-section (4) of section 164. 
  • Section 164(4) gives that any such admission will be recorded in the way given in section 281 to recording the inspecting of a accused and will be endorsed by the individual making the admission; and the Magistrate will make an update at the foot of such record.

International Human Rights and the law

There are some rights provided to prisoners under various International Instrument

Article 3 of the UDHR states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of oneself whether they are freeman or prisoners. Prisoners should not subject to torture, cruelty, or any inhumane treatment.

Article 10 of ICCPR provides provisions to make a distinction between accused and convicts. Accused must be segregated from a convicted person.

It contains 122 rules we wore providing the important one-:

  • Provision related to clothing and bedding.
  • Provision related to exercise and sport.
  • Proper medical facility.
  • Provisions related to the prohibition of corporal punishment, punishment by placing in a dark cell and all inhumane degrading punishment.

This Principle ensures that all prisoners should be treated with respect and dignity without infringing their fundamental rights.

The European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 1987

The European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into power on 1 March 2002. The Convention builds up the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee is allowed to visit all spots of confinement, characterized by the show in Article 2 “any spot inside its ward where people are denied of their freedom by a public position.”

Once a state government is told of the expectation of the Committee to complete a visit it is needed to permit admittance to the domain with the option to free go without limitation, full data of the office being referred to, limitless admittance to the office and free development inside it, the option to meet any individual being held inside the office, discuss openly with any individual whom it accepts can supply significant data and admittance to whatever other data which the Committee feels is important to do its errand. All data assembled is private. In uncommon conditions a state may make portrayals dependent on grounds of public guard, public security, and genuine issue in custodial offices against a visit to a specific spot or at a specific time. After each visit a report is drawn up with any potential ideas to the state being referred to.

Important Judgements

D. Bhuvan Mohan Patnaik & Ors vs State Of Andhra Pradesh & Ors

Supreme Court held that the detention of an accused cannot be deprived him/her of his fundamental rights. SC held that the violent behaviors of policemen outside the jails are vague and irrational. To safeguard the cell premises policemen must station outside the prison. Moreover, convicts possess fundamental rights with some reasonable restrictions.     

Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India

The SC held that the option to travel to another country is a piece of the privilege to individual freedom under Article 21. The SC additionally decided that the simple presence of an empowering law was sufficiently not to control individual freedom. “The system endorsed by law must be reasonable, just and sensible, not whimsical, harsh or self-assertive”. In this way, the court held that the methodology set up by law ought to be sensible, just and reasonable it will be liberated from any unreasonableness and arbitrariness. 

A.K. Gopalan vs.  State of Madras

The S.C. held-that Article 22 was an independent Code and if individual freedom is removed by the State as per the system set up by law for example assuming the confinement was according to the system set up by law, it can’t be said that the law was violative of arrangements contained in Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

D.K. Basu vs. State of West Bengal

The court for this situation said that, the lock-ups deaths are to be diminished. It will straightforwardly negatively affect the conviction of public in lawfulness; the Supreme Court guided every one of the High Courts to keep an eye on the subtleties and discipline that are being forced on prisoners in the prisons. They were approached to give the itemized rundown of the multitude of people who were captured and who at any point were in lock-ups. In section 22 of the judgment, Justice Dr. S.A. Anand set some hard boundaries as follows: “Custodial death is maybe one of the most noticeably terrible wrongdoings in acculturated society administered by law and order. The rights under Article 21 and 22(1) of Constitution are needed to be cautiously and conscientiously ensured. We can’t whisk away the issue. Any type of torment or pitiless, barbaric or embarrassing treatment would pull in Article 21 of the Constitution, regardless of whether it happens during examination, barbecuing or something else. In the event that the police become culprits, it will undoubtedly bring hatred for law and will empower rebellion and each man would tend to take law unto himself prompting erroneous date. No socialized country can allow that to occur.

Does a resident shed of his major right of life, the second a police officer captures him? Will the option to live of a resident be placed in suspension on his capture? These inquiries contact the spinal card of the basic freedoms statute. The appropriate response, for sure, must be a decided ‘No’. The valuable right ensured by Article 21 of the Constitution of India can’t be denied to convicts, under-preliminaries, detenues and different detainees in authority, besides as indicated by the strategy set up by law by putting such sensible limitations as allowed by laws. It has been held by the Apex Court that pay can be conceded under the public law by the Supreme Court and the High Courts notwithstanding private law solution for convoluted activity and discipline to miscreants under criminal law for set up break of crucial rights.

Sheela Barse vs. State of Maharashtra

The issue of brutality on women prisoners in the police lock up was taken up. The applicant, a columnist, tended to a letter to the court, which was treated as a writ appeal under Article 32 of the constitution. For this situation, the court set down excellent rules for guaranteeing insurance against torment and abuse of women and furthermore gave bearings for making legitimate guide accessible to destitute prisoners.

Smt. Nilabati vs. State of Orissa & Others

Smt. Nilabati Behera tended to a letter to the Supreme Court of the country which was treated as an appeal under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution for deciding the case of remuneration made in that resulting upon, the demise of petitioner’s  child, Suman Behera, in police care. Suman Behera was taken to the police guardianship regarding an examination of an offence of robbery and confined at the police station. On the following day, the solicitor came to realize that the dead body of his child was found at the railroad station. There were numerous wounds on the collection of Suman Behera and clearly this demise has been caused as a result of such wounds and it was an unnatural passing. The claim made is that it is an instance of custodial death since Suman Behera passed on because of the numerous wounds perpetrated to him while he was in police authority, and from there on his dead body was tossed on the rail route track. The prayer made in the appeal is for the honor of pay to the candidate, the mother of Suman Behera, for repudiation of the key right to life ensured under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court guided the respondent-State of Orissa to pay the amount of Rs.1, 50, 000 to the petitioner and a further amount of Rs.10, 000 as to be paid to the Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee.

Prem Shankar Shukla vs. Delhi Administration

This case preceded the Court via public Interest Litigation encouraging the Court to articulate upon the sacred legitimacy of the binding society in the light of the re-imagined Article 21 of the Constitution. A prisoner sent a telegram to one of the appointed authorities of the Court grumbling of constrained binds on him and different prisoners during travel between jail house and court. In the moment case the court prohibited the standard binding of prisoners as violative of the protected command and pronounced the qualification among classes of prisoners as total. Hand – handcuffing is prime facie barbaric and, in this manner preposterous and subjective. The court kept up that in outrageous conditions, where the prisoner is at a security hazard, urgent, boisterous or engaged with non-bailable offences binds could be utilized, wherein the accompanying position should record the explanations behind doing as such. Something else, the methodology will be out of line and terrible in law. While conveying the judgment Justice Krishna Iyer caused to notice Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and held that hand-cuffing of a prisoner was unlawful if there was some other sensible method of forestalling the break of the prisoner. He emphasized the Article 21, presently the safe-haven of human qualities, recommends reasonable technique and prohibits barbarities, reformatory just as procedural.

Khatri vs. State of Bihar

Famously known as Bhagalpur Blinding case was the principal situation where the topic of giving money related pay was considered by the Supreme Court. For this situation, it was claimed that the police had dazed certain prisoners denying them of their entitlement to life and freedom. The inquiry presented under the watchful eye of the Court was whether an individual, who has been denied of his entitlement to life or individual freedom by the State, could be repaid by conceding financial help. The Supreme Court in a public Interest case requested to examine and rebuff the blameworthy Police officials who brutally dazed around 30 prisoners by penetrating their eyes with needles and emptying corrosive at them. Further, Supreme Court censured this uncouth torment as violative of Art. 21 and granted remuneration to the people in question.

Rudal Shah vs. State of Bihar

The applicant Rudal Shah was confined wrongfully in jail for over fourteen years. He documented Habeas Corpus under the steady gaze of the court for his nearby delivery and inter alia prayed for his restoration cost, clinical charges and pay for illicit detainment. After his delivery, the inquiry under the steady gaze of the court was “regardless of whether in exercise of ward under Article 32, the court can pass a request for installment of cash? Regardless of whether such request is in the idea of remuneration considerable upon the hardship of major right? The court addressed this question in the agreed; this certification was a genuine speed increase and goliath jump in the compensatory-cum-established misdeed statute in our lawful history. The choice of Rudal Shah was significant in two regards. Initially, it held that infringement of a protected right can bring about a common risk enforceable in a common court and; also, it plans the bases for a hypothesis of responsibility under which an infringement of the privilege to individual freedom can lead to a common obligation. The choice centered limit worry to secure and presence the basic right of a resident than sovereign and non-sovereign polarity. The Supreme Court’s wherein it conceded financial remuneration of rupees 35 thousand to the candidate against the rebellious demonstration of the Bihar Government which saved him in illicit detainment for more than fourteen years after acquittal.

Francis Coralie Mullin vs. The Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi

Another significant judgment conveyed by the Supreme Court Bhagwati J. noticed the privilege to life cherished in Article 21 can’t be confined to simple creature presence. It implies something substantially more than simply actual endurance. The privilege to everyday routine incorporates the option to experience with human nobility and all that accompanies it, specifically, the minimum essentials of life like sufficient nourishment, garments and asylum over the head and offices for perusing, composing and communicating in assorted structures, uninhibitedly moving out and blending and mixing together with individual people”. In various cases the Supreme Court held that hand-cuffing of prisoners is against human respect and violative of Article 21.

Saheli, Women’s Resources Centre vs. Commissioner of Police, Delhi

The Supreme Court by and by considered the subject of allowing pay in the event of police barbarities. For this situation, a 9-year-old youngster passed on because of attack and beating by the cop. The Supreme Court held that the State is responsible to pay if there should be an occurrence of police abominations and as needs be it guided the State Government to pay Rs 75,000 as pay to the mother of the person in question.

Gauri Shankar Sharma vs. State of U.P.

Two cops were condemned by the Supreme Court for seriously beating a suspect for removing a confession booth proclamation. What’s more, his purposeful torment on non-installment of pay off bringing about custodial death. Communicating their profound worry on custody deaths the Court noticed: “Deaths in police authority should be genuinely seen”.

Arvinder Singh Bagga vs. State of U.P.

The Supreme Court requested that pay of Rs. 10.000 each to be paid to the woman and her significant other be recuperated from the concerned cops and the SHO, SI and the 10 be indicted for illicit capture causing embarrassment and torment of the applicants in police headquarters for no flaw of theirs.

Sebastian vs. Union of India

Two women recorded a writ of habeas corpus to produce their spouses, who were discovered missing. The specialists neglected to deliver them. The court closed, based on material put before it, that the two people “more likely than not met unnatural deaths and that at first sight they would be offences of homicide”. Because of disappointment of Government, the Supreme Court guided the respondents to pay Rs.1 lakh to be given to each one of the spouses of the missing people.

Sunil Batra vs. Delhi Administration :-

In this case, the Supreme Court observed that prisoners legally in jail does not prevent the use of Habeas Corpus to protect his inherent rights. SC explains Article 226 and 32, powers of Supreme Court and High Court to issue writs. 

Hussainara Khatoon vs. Home Secretary, State of Bihar :

Supreme Court held that under-trials who are in jail for a longer-term than what they have sentenced are illegal and is a violation of their fundamental rights enshrined under Article 21. The court recognized the unjustified deprivation of personal liberty in the Indian legal system for prisoners.  

R.D. Upadhyay vs. State of A.P. and Ors. :-

In this case, the Supreme Court laid some guidelines to maintain certain basic standards concerning children of women prisoners, as kids cannot be separated from their mother in formative years.  

Reality of Prisoners in India

The condition of Indian Prison is horrible. Prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. The worst part is that the under-trials and convicts are being kept together. Prisoners in Indian jails do not have any right to choose the work of their choice. Prisoners skilled in tailoring are forced to work as a labor in mines. There is no relation between the severity of the crime and the condition of the prison. Every accused has to live in the same suffocating environment, no matter it is proven or not. In India, prison punishment is double punishment. At present, only one-third of imprisoned are convicted offenders, others are still waiting for trial. A vast majority of prisoners cannot afford legal help. Most accused, who were sentenced for a certain time is still behind the bars. The harrowing reality of Indian prison is not only disappointing but also despicable.

In 2019, the average number of custodial deaths have increased to more than 5 people per day. 1731 people who died in police custody in 2019 are from vulnerable classes, mostly, Muslims and Dalits. The police torture is a gruesome illustration of a situation where the victim might be completely powerless and unprotected under the shield of protectors of public safety. Police cruelty is still practiced and praised by the public. In September 2019, in the Darrang District of Assam, a pregnant woman was tortured. Policemen kicked her belly and she lost her child due to miscarriage. In April 2019, Nabbir a prisoner in Tihar Jail complained that the superintendent forcibly burned ‘OM’ on his back.

The US Supreme Court also in the case of Manna v. people of Illinois said that life is no only animal existence and the souls behind the bar cannot be denied the same.


  1. Justice Mulla Committee has proposed setting up of a Department of Prisons and Correctional Services to manage grown-up and youthful offenders. Youthful offenders matured somewhere in the range of 18 and 21 ought not be kept in penitentiaries implied for grown-up wrongdoers, as they become more inclined to violations while in the organization of more experienced and solidified crooks. It correspondingly suggested that people captured for politico-monetary disturbances for public causes ought not to be restricted in jails with normal prisoners. Appropriately, it is recommended to group prisoners dependent on age and prisoners somewhere in the range of 18 and 21 years ought to be put independently.
  2. Not just this council, a lot more such advisory groups are set-up for the insurance of prisoner’s rights. For example, All India Jail Manual Committee, Ismail Committee, Tamil Nadu Prison Reforms Commission, National Expert advisory group on Women detainees, Kerala Legislature Estimate Committee, Travancore-Cochin Prisons Act, 1915.
  3. Conditions of prisoners ought to be improved, prisoners should get appropriate wellbeing offices, legitimate food, and they ought not be tormented or abused by the prison specialists.
  4. Proper assessment of prison ought to be done on a week after week or month to month premise and conversation ought to be finished with the prisoners in this way, that in the event that they are not treated as expected by the prison specialists, the examination group will become more acquainted with and exacting move can be made against the individuals who are tormenting the prisoners.
  5. Third-degree strategies should be dodged, mercilessly beating ought not be done on the grounds that much of the time the prisoners kick the bucket on the spot while request bringing about death in custody.
  6. For under-preliminary prisoners a quick preliminary ought to be done in light of the fact that days, yet weeks, months and years passed however they don’t get an opportunity to show up under the steady gaze of a court for the wrongdoing for which they were captured. Fast preliminary ought to be done of the under-trail prisoners.
  7. In numerous cases they have submitted a frivolous offence yet they are kept in authority for a more drawn out length, this ought to be dodged.
  8. When a prisoner escapes prison, he/she is boycotted by the general public in light of the fact that the general public thinks they are still criminal, it is effectively said – initial feeling is the last impression. The impression made on society of that individual is of a crook. In any case, this ought not to be finished. Society ought to comprehend the state of mind of prisoner.
  9. Even in correctional facilities different sporting exercises should be led for prisoner thus, they can redirect their psyche from criminal side. Yoga, Meditation, Educational Facilities and Vocational preparing, Weaving, Carpentry, and so on ought to be instructed to them. Thus, that in the wake of returning they can likewise utilize these things as a wellspring of procuring to deal with family.
  10. Over-crowding ought to be decreased by opening more prisons.
  11. Infliction of Custodial brutality is illicit just as unlawful, yet and still, at the end of the day, it is still by and by. Now and then it powers these individuals to become solidified lawbreakers. This training is an infringement of the Human Rights of the prisoners and ought to be abrogated as quickly as time permits.
  12. Women prisoners should be appropriately dealt with. In any event one lady clinical official should be accessible now and again to go to women prisoners. Plans ought to be made to give mental directing to those experiencing constant wretchedness, especially to women prisoners.
  13. The Parole office prescribing authority need to follow the reasonable and straightforward instrument to evade partiality just as the abuse of the facility.
  14. The above ideas ought to be carried out as right on time as workable for the viable and productive jail organization.


Prisoners’ rights in India are buried under the garb of Politics, Caste, Class, and Power. Prisoners reforms scheme gets entangled in a bureaucratic maze of paperwork. Just being a prisoner cannot deprive them of their basic human rights. We need to stop this ruthless behavior of the police. The government must wake up from deep slumber and take speedy action against custodial deaths and police barbarity. Indian prisons should focus on rehabilitation and not on the punishment of a prisoner. 

This article was originally authored by Apurvi Tiwari, student at Lloyd law college, Greater Noida and further edited by Aditi Dhamdhere, student at P.E.Society’s Modern Law College, Pune University 

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