Jail inmates and the law: India
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
In a first, over 4,000 jail inmates visiting lockups at various Delhi court complexes every month, will be able to avail of free legal aid through `clinics' set up by Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA).The first of these clinics will be inaugurated in Dwarka.
The aim of the clinics is to provide legal help to the accused or convicts who otherwise are unable to discuss their cases with lawyers due to paucity of time or other constraints, besides enabling free legal aid to those who cannot afford it. Even those who already have free legal aid lawyers can find space for interaction.
DSLSA member secretary Sanjiv Jain said, due to several constraints, legal aid lawyers are unable to visit the jails and interact with their clients before the evidence is recorded or argu ments begin in the trial.“Many inmates do not get a legal representation as a result. The clinics will make things convenient for both lawyers and inmates,“ he said.
When an inmate is produced in court, they are first taken to the lockup in the re spective court complex. Delhi has six court complexes with lockups.
Additional secretary Naveen Gupta recognised these lockups as the best place for the clinics to come up. “The inmates can be made aware of other rights that not only an accused can exercise during investigation or trial but also a prisoner in custody,“ he said.
DSLSA has decided to depute one legal aid counsel from 10am to 5pm every day at these clinics. The lawyer will be available even on weekends and public holidays. They will be paid an honorarium equivalent to a front office advocate on the DSLSA's panel.
Sentence review/ Sentence Review Boards
HC: Convicts freed at ‘whims’ of review board
Delhi high court expressed concern at the manner in which convicts were being granted premature release on the “whims and fancies” of the Sentence Review Board (SRB).
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao said there has to be “transparency” in the process while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking fairness and impartiality in the functioning of SRB while dealing with the issue of premature release of convicts.
“A convict should know why he or she is not being released while another was being released,” the bench said while issuing notice to Delhi government and seeking its stand on the plea by advocate Amit Sahni.
HC also referred to the “apprehension or likelihood” of bias against certain prisoners based on caste or religion, as alleged in the plea while seeking the government’s stand.
The PIL seeks a transparent process, the court said, and asked the Delhi government if it did not agree with the points made in the plea, it should give alternatives “to ensure transparency”.
Senior advocates Sanjay Jain and Hariharan, appearing for Sahni, questioned how the SRB was dealing with the issue of premature release. They also suggested that names of convicts, who are seeking premature release, be masked with numbers so that their caste or religion is not known to the SRB and to avoid “extraneous consideration.”
“Right to legal representation must be also given to the convict, whose cases are placed before the SRB for the purpose of consideration for premature release. Meetings of SRB must be videographed to ensure transparency in its working and functioning,” the PIL said, adding that the entire material placed before SRB — police reports, reports from jail, nominal rolls, report from social welfare department and other documents — must be forwarded to the LG for an independent decision if recommendations of the board are based on the material considered by it or not.
The petition also mentioned an instance where one inmate, Sikander Singh, died in jail awaiting the decision of SRB. It said the convict had already undergone more than 28 years of incarceration and his detention beyond 25 years was illegal and uncalled for.
Sex with partners
HC allows jail inmates to have sex with their partners
In a historic verdict, the Punjab and Haryana high court has allowed jail inmates to have sex with their partners in prison as long as they are married and want to have a child. The court, in an order made public on Tuesday, held that conjugal visits or artificial insemination for progeny was a fundamental right of jail inmates.
Justice Surya Kant passed these orders while disposing of a petition filed by a couple, Jasvir Singh and Sonia, who are lodged in the Central Jail, Patiala, and who demanded conjugal rights for progeny. They were awarded death penalty by a trial court for kidnapping and killing a 16-year-old boy for a hefty ransom.
While the court denied the couple’s plea due to the heinous nature of the crime, it enlarged the petition’s scope in larger public interest. The judge held that right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution includes the right of convicts and jail inmates to have conjugal visits or artificial insemination as an alternative.
“A society which is currently involved in academic and intellectual debates on ‘gay-rights’ or the recognition of ‘thirdgender’ cannot shy away nor can it keep concealed under the carpet the pragmatic concept of conjugal visits of the jail inmates,” the court observed. “To say it differently, time has come and before it is too late, the stake-holders must sit together and deliberate upon this crucial subject and take a holistic view.” The court, however, held these rights were to be regulated by law and were the sole prerogative of the state. For this, the court ordered the constitution of a jail reforms committee to be headed by a retired high court judge. The committee would formulate a scheme for creation of an environment for conjugal and family visits in jail. forms committee to be headed by a retired high court judge. The committee would formulate a scheme for creation of an environment for conjugal and family visits in jail.
Jail inmates and the law: India